Dear Ask Oswald,
I'm writing to you with a delicate problem: my son, who is white, is being taught by a teacher whom I can only describe as "black". What do you suggest?
This is a very common problem. My advice to you is a variation of the old adage "softly, softly, catchee..." Well, you know. The first thing to stress is that you must not complain about the fact that your son is being taught by a black teacher.
This may seem counter-intuitive - surely a blunt approach is faster? But the truth is that, in these benighted times, many schools have the notion that such a complaint would constitute an offence. We frequently see schools observing the obsessive niceties of human rights, the Race Relations Act and other institutions. They may even have a policy that eschews discrimination. It is sadly true that the parent who wants to openly complain about the blackness of a teacher will find themselves at the wrong end of a visit from the constabulary.
Fortunately the wise parent need not suffer such privation. There are far more effective ways to deal with this unfortunate situation.
Your son can take action immediately. He should refuse to do any work and, when challenged about this, insist that it's because he doesn't understand what he has to do. If the teacher attempts to explain the task, your son need only wait 10 minutes before repeating the process.
After enough of this, the teacher may be minded to take action; at the slightest rebuke, your son should start an argument, creating as much fuss as possible. If sent into the corridor, your son should disrupt other lessons, thereby bringing the classroom management of the black teacher into obvious and public disrepute.
Care must be taken if your son encounters a more senior teacher while doing so. He must immediately become docile and friendly, and deny any knowledge of why he was sent out. He can strongly hint that Sir lost his temper, and should have been attending to others who were more belligerent. It should be mentioned that he didn't understand the work, that Sir wouldn't explain it and that he was exiled when he asked for help.
You can play your part, too. Email the headteacher to say that your son is being picked on. Mention the fact that your son finds the subject hard and wants to do well, but is now struggling. Imply that the teacher's heavy accent is an issue, but make no attempt to link this with any cultural or racial factor.
Suggest that your son be moved to another class. You may want to keep him at home for a few days to make the point. Tell him that he doesn't have to attend detentions set by the teacher. Persist; many schools will give in rather than stand up to you. You may even find that the teacher is subject to a disciplinary caution for failing to control his classes. So much the better.
I wish you, and your racist son, all the best.
Tom Bennett teaches at the Jo Richardson Community School in Essex and is director of the ResearchED conference