Race chief attacks training negligence

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
The government's chief race adviser has accused the Teacher Training Agency of "sticking two fingers up" at anti-racism.

In a blistering attack Sir Herman Ouseley, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, called the agency "negligent" and ministers "impotent" in their failure to put equal opportunities firmly on the teacher-training curriculum.

"The TTA and Department for Education and Employment are both negligent on this," he said. "One pushes it on to the other and neither seems to give a damn. It is either institutional inertia or total disrespect for our views and the concerns of black parents. It is scandalous."

His comments come in a week when racial tensions in Britain are running high, following the public inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the black A-level student.

Sir Herman said: "If we are equipping the police with these [anti-racist] skills - and look at the problems we still have there - how can these people say it's not important for teachers?

"How will the next generation learn to deal with prejudice, bias and bigotry if our teachers aren't taught how to? It seems to me so logical, so simple that I cannot understand why these highly educated and responsible people running the DFEE and TTA appear not to care. If they were black or Asian and had a child in our state- school system they might think very differently."

Stephen Hillier, head of corporate management at the TTA, said the agency was "not prepared to prescribe" anti-racist work on the actual curriculum or syllabus, but that new required standards for trainee teachers required all newly-qualified teachers to teach pupils to the same level "notwithstanding individual difference".

Mr Hillier said: "We are not going to get into a public row with the CRE. We share their concerns and will continue to work with them, but I am happy we've gone to the heart of the matter, which is 'What are teachers like at the end of training?'"

Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which this week published new anti-racist guidelines for teachers, said he "could well understand" Sir Herman's anger.

Mr Smith said: "If someone of Sir Herman Ouseley's stature and a body as well respected as the CRE is expressing such clear frustration and anger publicly, then the TTA has to listen very, very carefully. How they can say they know better than the CRE on this one is beyond me. "

Sir Herman continued: "The commission's gentle persuasion and reasoned arguments have failed. I am sick of tiptoeing on eggshells around certain educationists who have a blind spot on this. We will not be fobbed off any longer."

l Nearly half of 16-year-olds believe Britain is a racist country, according to a new survey.

A MORI poll commissioned by the Associatio n of Teachers and Lecturers showed perceptions of racism deepen as children get older. At 11, just over 30 per cent believe Britain is racist. By 16, that figure rises to 41 per cent, regardless of ethnic background.

Of the 4,000 pupils interviewed, Wales - closely followed by Yorkshire and Humberside - had the highest proportion declaring the country racist, at three in four.

Leader, page 16

The ATL's guidelines for teachers, "Racial Equality in Schools", are available from ATL Publications, 7 Northumber land Street, London WC2N 5DA,priced #163;3.99 (free to members).

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