Anti-racism charity ups efforts to combat EDL

12th August 2011 at 01:00
It claims teachers need better training to counteract rising tide of bigotry - especially Islamophobia - in schools

A major charity that tackles racism in schools has been forced to expand its work to combat the growing influence of the English Defence League (EDL), its chief executive has warned.

The EDL, which has organised a series of protests which have turned violent, has become a "significant street force", according to Ged Grebby from Show Racism the Red Card.

"The rise of Islamophobia combined with organisations like the EDL show we have a real problem in society," Mr Grebby said. "There's no doubt some young white people do feel disenfranchised. The EDL has given us a kick up the backside. It has been a focus for young people in particular."

Show Racism the Red Card, which delivers workshops to schools to tackle racist attitudes, has made a series of films to tackle anti-Muslim sentiments. It now also speaks to children about homophobia and prejudice against asylum-seekers.

The expansion of its work follows a report released by the charity last month, which found that racism is still a "very real issue" in English schools. More than eight out of 10 teachers questioned said they had witnessed racist jokes, name-calling and stereotyping by pupils; 31 per cent said they had witnessed racist attitudes among fellow teachers.

Mr Grebby said teachers needed better training to combat racism, especially anti-Muslim abuse.

"On traditional racism teachers are quite confident," he said. "But when it comes to Islamophobia they are terrified. They worry if it's an issue they don't know a lot about, it could make things worse if they tackle it."

Education secretary Michael Gove last year pledged to give schools new powers to sack teachers who are members of the BNP. But proposed new teaching standards published in June failed to introduce significant changes, according to teaching unions.

Mr Gove's original comments followed the case of Adam Walker, a BNP- supporting teacher who was cleared of racial intolerance by the General Teaching Council for England, even though he had posted messages online describing immigrants as "filth" and "savages".

Mr Grebby backed the view that "BNP members should not be teaching in our schools".

Show Racism the Red Card, which uses footballers to combat racism, has visited hundreds of schools since it was set up in Newcastle in 1996 and now has offices in Glasgow, Cardiff and Bedford. It celebrated its 15th anniversary this month.

One of the founders of the charity, former Newcastle goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, told The TES he was also worried by the impact of groups such as the BNP and the EDL. "I think there are still factions intent on portraying a message that is not at all British," he said. "It skews people's perceptions quite a bit; Britain is a very progressive country."

Mr Grebby said tens of thousands of children had received its anti-racism message over the past 15 years, but he warned that it was having to tighten its belt after its funding from government was cut by pound;100,000.

School visits

Talking tactics

Shaka Hislop was one of the first to be contacted by Ged Grebby about helping the fledgling Show Racism the Red Card charity to tackle racism using high-profile players.

He visited schools in Newcastle, along with then team-mate John Beresford, to spread the anti-racism message when they played for the Magpies back in the mid-1990s.

"It was a little bit daunting," Hislop admitted. "I wasn't sure what we were letting ourselves in for. But kids are far more accepting and open- minded than we give them credit for.

"The teachers were very accepting. Teachers were always happy to have different ways of getting over a message that resonates with the kids."

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