Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Racism report backs teacher freedom

Teachers should not be banned from joining organisations which promote racism, a report suggested

Teachers should not be banned from joining organisations which promote racism and intolerance, a report has suggested.

Barring school workers from membership of such non-proscribed groups or political parties like the BNP would be a "disproportionate response" and a "profound political act", the study's author concluded.

Maurice Smith, who was tasked with investigating the problem of racism within schools, said such action would constitute "taking a very large sledgehammer to crack a minuscule nut".

The former Chief Inspector of Schools said 10 measures already in place were sufficiently comprehensive to "mitigate the risk", though he acknowledged some of these needed time to "bed-in" and could be improved upon.

Among his suggestions outlined to Schools Secretary Ed Balls, Mr Smith recommended closing a gap between "policy on the shelf and practice in the classroom". He said: "I do not believe that barring teachers or other members of the wider school workforce from membership of legitimate organisations which may promote racism is necessary at present, although it should be kept under active review."

Mr Smith, who is currently director of education for the Church of England Manchester Diocese, was speaking at the Department for Children, Schools and Families in central London. Outlining the findings of his study, he said the relationship between racist behaviour and membership of an apparently racist organisation was "not necessarily causal".

And he said there was currently "insufficient evidence of risk" to justify a ban on teachers joining organisations like the BNP.

His independent review made six recommendations which the Government has accepted in full.

Teaching union NASUWT branded the review was branded a "golden opportunity squandered". General secretary Chris Keates said the report was "woefully inadequate and littered with contradictions".

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