University in row over Asian student

5th January 1996 at 00:00
Rifat Malik and Nicholas Pyke on a teacher-training dispute with racial overtones. A secondary school has accused Nottingham University of behaving with "breathtaking arrogance" in deciding not to award a 43-year-old student a postgraduate certificate in education.

The university is to hold an internal inquiry into the row between its education department and Aldercar school, where the student, Subha Ktorides, did some of her teaching practice.

Aldercar, a 460-pupil 11-16 comprehensive in Langley Mill, Nottingham, has threatened to end its association with the university's education department unless Mrs Ktorides is awarded the PGCE. The school says that Mrs Ktorides, who passed the academic side of her year-long course, deserves a job and has been victimised.

Mrs Ktorides, who is Asian, says her relationship with the education department broke down when, she claims, it failed to support her during her first teaching placement - not at Aldercar. She alleges she was jostled and racially abused at the predominantly white school which is in an area where the British National party is active. Mrs Ktorides says her request to be transferred was ignored.

Mrs Ktorides has the support of the National Union of Teachers and local race equality groups, and has lodged a complaint with the Education and Employment Secretary.

Her case also illustrates the uncertain division of power in the teacher-training system created by the Government in 1992. The university has refused to give her a PGCE even though the school, which says she would make a good teacher, is officially deemed to have the leading responsibility for all work based in schools. Trainees must spend two-thirds of the 36-week course in the classroom.

Mrs Ktorides says: "I don't blame the children for what happened. I hold the university responsible for the physical and mental ill-health I suffered as a consequence of that prolonged racist experience. They refused to transfer me and felt I should have to cope with such unacceptable pressures.

"Basically it means my training must be twice as intensive, and I have to be twice as good, as my white counterparts."

After nearly five weeks, Mrs Ktorides says she could take no more and withdrew. The university, she said, considered it an aborted placement and Mrs Ktorides then found a successful summer placement at Aldercar, without the university's assistance.

After that, her dealings with the university soured to the extent that she called in the local racial equality council and the Nottingham Association for Black Educationalists.

Two white students in Mrs Ktorides' tutorial group were failed by their schools, but the university negotiated a pass for them.

David Winsor, head of English and the teacher-training co-ordinator at Aldercar, insists Mrs Ktorides was a definite pass, and that he would have given her a job had there been a vacancy. He accuses the university of "breath-taking arrogance" and says the decision to fail her was "a most unjust and unfounded decision".

Professor Christopher Day, chair of Nottingham's school of education, says he would be surprised if she had been victimised, but could not comment further until a university appeal hearing later this month.

However, according to another senior member of the education department, two out of the three assessors, including an external examiner, failed Mrs Ktorides on her Aldercar teaching practice. Only the Aldercar examiner gave a pass.

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