Colour bar on careers;Racism in schools

12th March 1999 at 00:00
Black teachers believe they do not get support from senior staff, that their promotion prospects are blocked and that they are subject to overt racism during their careers.

At a conference - Raising Black Awareness in the Classroom- organised by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers last week, black delegates told The TES about the barriers they face.

Alastair Gittens was an art teacher at Latymer, a grant-maintained secondary school in Edmonton, north London for seven years. While there he gained several grade As for his A-level students. However, when he moved to Ferryhill school, in County Durham, he says he was subject to racial abuse from children but senior management did not offer him proper support. He is now on long-term sick leave and is subject to competency proceedings.

The school said it was aware of pupil racism, but it does not have a formal policy on the issue. Other Ferryhill teachers backed Mr Gittens' criticism of management. They said they had reported repeated incidents of racial abuse but that little or nothing has been done.

Richard Whitter works in a number of schools targeting disaffected pupils as part of the African Caribbean Achievement Project in Wolverhampton. He said his experience has been one of obtaining interviews but not posts.

He said: "I'm often told, 'Yes, you were excellent' but I don't get the jobs and I don't get feedback."

Once in a post things didn't get any easier for him: "You try to do things to the best of your ability but in the end people are obstructive. Staff wouldn't think of themselves as racist but what they are doing manifests itself in that way," he said.

Clyde Green, deputy curriculum manager for science at the Sarah Bonnell School, a girls' secondary in Newham, east London, agreed promotion is difficult. Although he had been acting curriculum manager in the school for almost half his time and had taken the department through a successful Office for Standards in Education inspection, he could not obtain a management post.

"I have applied for curriculum manager posts and have always been called for interview. I'm ambitious and I go for things, but I don't get the jobs.

"Black teachers do feel that they have to apply more often and have a better track record than most to get the jobs," he said.

The latest figures, from 1991, show that only 2.5 per cent of teachers are black. The Teacher Training Agency is setting targets for recruiting ethnic minorities, but teachers at the conference criticised the Department for Education and Employment for failing to monitor or set targets to get black teachers into senior management positions.

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