Racism still not on the record

16th May 2003 at 01:00
Harassment of minority staff is not being monitored, reports Phil Revell.

A NEW report on racial harassment in Britain's schools has reinforced calls for action.

"We would love to have given examples of best practice in the report," said Patrick Roach, equal opportunities officer of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. "But we didn't find any."

The NASUWT research was carried out by Leicester University's Centre for Citizenship earlier this year, and included a detailed study of three local education authorities. The report suggests that monitoring of teachers'

ethnic background is virtually non-existent and that few LEAs can act against racial harassment because incidents are not recorded.

"You have to actively monitor," said Mr Roach. "You can't rely on people to report. Teachers will not have the confidence to report incidents until employers demonstrate that they take the issue seriously - the MacPherson inquiry report made exactly that point."

The 1999 report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence recommended that schools record racist incidents. The NASUWT concedes that ethnic-minority pupils have since been offered more protection - but teachers facing harassment are still not being listened to.

Two years ago Essex secondary teacher Priscilla Bennett was awarded nearly pound;50,000 in damages after she was driven to a nervous breakdown by racist abuse from pupils. She complained regularly to the managers of her Basildon school but the abuse continued.

Research into racist incidents is hampered by the paucity of information about black and ethnic-minority teachers.

In January, a General Teaching Council for England survey on the state of the teaching profession was affected by the same lack of data. The GTCE does not know the ethnicity of the teachers on its register. The ethnic-minority teachers who responded to the survey - less than 2 per cent of a sample of 50,000 - were selected by accident.

Even from such a tiny group the responses were revealing. Ethnic-minority teachers were more likely to be dissatisfied with school discipline and to see themselves working outside teaching in five years time.

The GTCE database was inherited from the Department for Education and Skills, which in turn relies on local authorities. Discussions on how to produce an accurate ethnic picture of the profession are under way but no one expects to see one soon.

The situation is all the more surprising because the Government amended the Race Relations Act three years ago, forcing public bodies to monitor their employees' ethnic background.

These regulations, which came into force in May last year, require public authorities to monitor, by ethnic group, not only their existing staff, but applicants for jobs, promotion and training - and to publish the results every year. There are specific duties for schools and other educational institutions.

A few authorities with significant ethnic-minority populations collect detailed information. In Birmingham, 8 per cent of teachers are from ethnic minorities. Lewisham, Nottingham, and Wolverhampton can also provide detailed information. But many local authorities cannot.

"LEAs complain that schools don't give them the information," said Mr Roach. He would like to see current regulations amended to make schools equally responsible in law for providing information.

Enforcement of the 2000 Act is the responsibility of the Commission for Racial Equality, which has sent a guide on ethnic monitoring to every UK school. It has also conducted research into how schools are dealing with the Act and the report is due out this summer. It is expected to show disappointingly low levels of compliance.

"There is no excuse for schools and LEAs saying they are not aware of the issue, or that they do not understand the new requirements," said a CRE spokesperson.

The NASUWT report calls for specific training for school leaders on how to deal with racist harassment, alongside detailed monitoring of all incidents and complaints.

"This is about making the profession more attractive to black and ethnic-minority teachers," said Patrick Roach.

For details of the specific duties of schools and other educational institutions under the Race Relations Act, see the Commission for Racial Equality guidance at www.cre.gov.ukdutyindex.htmlNoNospecific_educ.Copies of the NASUWT research are available from the union, tel: 0121 453 6150.


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