BNP councillors target schools as key battleground

22nd May 2009 at 01:00
They seek places on governing body of 80% Asian school to fight integration

Three BNP councillors bid this week to join the governing body of a secondary in Stoke where 80 per cent of pupils are of Asian background as the far-right party revealed it would oppose integration in schools if it makes gains at next month's local elections.

The BNP is the third biggest party on Stoke council and plans to use the electoral advances it is forecast to make to attempt to influence governing bodies in campaigning against ethnic and religious integration in schools.

The three Stoke councillors were nominated to sit on the governing body of Edensor Technology College, where the BNP hopes to gain a presence in order to fight the creation of an academy that would merge the school with two others that are predominantly white.

A cornerstone of the party's education policy at the June 4 elections is its opposition to the Building Schools for the Future programme, which it condemns for mixing children of different ethnicities and promoting multiculturalism.

Simon Darby, the BNP's deputy leader, told The TES that the school- building programme in Stoke was a "total mess".

"There is currently a big row about schools in Stoke," he said. "They are shutting down a few to make way for a super-school when there is nothing wrong with them.

"It's basically a way for the Government to mix the kids together. The Muslim kids won't be happy as they want to go to school in their area. It's a total mess."

Under the plans, Edensor is set to close in three or four years to make way for Park Hall Academy, to which the BNP is vehemently opposed, despite the governing body supporting the move.

As The TES went to press, Stoke's Labour party had scrambled together three candidates to counter the BNP's bid, and said it had "every confidence" it would secure the seats on the governing body.

Anti-racist group United Against Fascism said the BNP often used "racist propagation" when it established a foothold in a community.

"They try to increase tensions in the area. That is what they are trying to do in Stoke," said a spokesperson for the group. "We believe they should not be tolerated and, being a fascist organisation, should be banned from civil life."

The NASUWT teachers' union, which has been campaigning against the BNP for many years, said it was "extremely concerned" about the party's attempts to influence the work of schools.

"The BNP has always stood for division, and their activity results in race-hate incidents that impact on pupils, staff and the whole school community," Chris Keates, the union general secretary, said.

"No right-minded person would want those who perpetrate or support the BNP's vile agenda being responsible for the education of children."

The BNP's national education policy also highlights the "teaching of homosexual propaganda", which it labels a "disgrace".

The Government said there were no restrictions on the political allegiance of school governors, but they must all adhere to the law of the land, particularly legislation on race discrimination.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said academies provided an opportunity to "improve life chances for pupils of all abilities and backgrounds".

A department spokesperson said: "As with all schools, academies have a duty to help build a fair, integrated and tolerant society by giving children the skills, knowledge and opportunities to learn with, from and about those from different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds."

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