Primaries in BNP strongholds advised on how to fight the right

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Teachers face increasing numbers of 'seemingly innocent but divisive questions' from pupils

Primary teachers are being taught how to fight the influence of the BNP at schools in areas where the extreme right-wing party has gained a foothold.

Primary Colours, an organisation that promotes cultural diversity in schools, said it had seen a rise in the number of requests from primaries in parts of the country where far-right activity is increasing.

It said teachers are coming under pressure to answer "seemingly innocent but divisive questions" from children, provoking "conflict and disharmony" in the classroom.

Although most of the company's work focuses on promoting cultural diversity, it told The TES that schools in east London - particularly in Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP recorded 19 per cent of the vote in this month's elections - were increasingly asking for its services.

Marcia Hutchinson, managing director of Primary Colours, said the courses they provide try to "humanise the people the BNP are trying to demonise" to allow children to understand what it is like to come from another country.

"We find we are contacted by schools that notice far-right activity around their schools and perhaps have heard children using comments they have clearly heard from home," she said. "Teachers usually turn to us and ask how they can combat it."

The firm uses a number of Inset courses and lesson plans that provide teachers with the means to respond to comments made by their pupils.

"We tend to use the Trojan Horse approach - we are a little more subtle than telling children they are going to learn about fighting the BNP," Ms Hutchinson said.

Asked whether it was right that schools should be taught about the dangers of a democratically elected party, she said the BNP was an organisation whose aim "is to incite racial hatred, which is illegal".

Ripple Junior, in Barking, which serves a community with high numbers of Afro-Caribbean and Asian families, called on Primary Colours to help it stage a cultural diversity week.

Alison McIlwraith, the school's inclusion manager, said: "We are aware our community is very culturally diverse and we wanted to reflect that with our cultural diversity week.

"It is a worry that the BNP is on our doorstep, and it would be wrong to say that there isn't any racism in our school, but it's certainly not overt and we have a very supportive ethos," she said.

Northbury Junior, also in Barking, said it had become more aware of the BNP in recent months but has always promoted the benefits of cultural diversity.

Assistant head Ethel Jordan said: "We have children from a wide range of backgrounds and we always want to talk about the benefits of multi-culturalism, but we've come to know about the BNP more recently.

"We have seen more work to promote cultural diversity across the borough. Dagenham has a higher proportion of white pupils, and recently those schools have been coming on board with what we have been saying."

Primary Colours said the main political parties had underestimated the reach of the BNP. "(They) don't seem to realise how well organised they are," Ms Hutchinson said.

"They need to realise that this is more a war than an election. What we try to do in schools is win the battle for hearts and minds."

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