Pupils claim teachers have used racist language or tolerated racism in five Edinburgh schools, council says
- Allegations were made of ‘a culture of racism existing in some schools’ last year
- The City of Edinburgh Council commissioned a report into the claims from pupils
- Investigation found no evidence but called on ‘improvement actions’ to be made
Pupils from several schools in Edinburgh have made complaints about racist language used by teachers or staff tolerating racism, according to a new report.
The City of Edinburgh Council commissioned a report amid claims suggesting the ‘N-word’ was tolerated by staff, pupils told others to ‘go home’ and that BAME pupils were referred to as a ‘gang’ or ‘tribe’.
A three-month investigation was launched by an independent advisor on St Augustine’s RC High School and Holy Rood RC High School, as well as Craigmount HS, Drummond HS and Firrhill HS.
It eventually concluded there was ‘no evidence’ of a culture of racism but noted ‘improvement actions’ are required by the schools.
The report says a total of 31 complaints including pupil accounts of alleged racist behaviour by other pupils and teachers at St Augustine’s RC High School (pictured)
Most of the complaints involving Holy Rood RC High School were pupil accounts of racist behaviour by other pupils and some by teachers
Council officer Lorna French, who led the investigation, said there ‘were incidents of a lack of sensitivity when teaching the curriculum, which led to racist incidents taking place’.
The report read: ‘All schools could demonstrate examples where they had successfully handled racist incidents and had shared the outcomes with the complainants to their satisfaction, however the complainants provided examples where this had not happened.
‘Various reasons emerged here: sometimes this was due to a lack of sensitivity by staff, for example, a normalising of racist name calling is cited in almost all schools to varying degrees.
‘In other words, staff who are actively anti-racist will have a zero tolerance of language which causes offence, while other staff may be inured to offensive language.
‘A small number of complaints highlighted the use of certain resources to teach aspects of the curriculum.
‘While there are reasons to continue to use certain texts, e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird, all staff should approach these sensitively and be mindful of the offence that can be caused by adopting a viewpoint which is not inclusive.
‘Schools should have a clear rationale for making use of outdated resources to teach contemporary issues, for example to teach about historical attitudes, bias and develop students’ critical literacy.
‘As is the case with statues and other legacies of slavery and colonialism, strong and effective teaching points can be made, but only when done with considerable care.
The report said racist behaviour at Craigmount High School (pictured) was either not followed up or ‘taken seriously’ by staff, while it also found use of the n-word was tolerated
The Council received a complaint from Intercultural Youth Scotland on behalf of pupils at Drummond Community HS, alleging racist incidents had taken place between pupils
One parent was concerned about the potential of bullying at Firrhill High School
‘The impact of Black Lives Matter can clearly be seen on the level of awareness and interest in anti-racism of almost all of the pupils interviewed.
‘Their understanding of racism has raised expectations of how the curriculum is taught.
‘Tension exists where the curriculum does not develop to reflect changes in society or where pupil voice is not sufficiently developed such that it informs the curriculum rationale.’
The council received 31 complaints regarding St Augustine’s, 24 about Holy Rood RC, 15 regarding Craigmount, 2 about Drummond and one from Firrhill.
The report noted the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the pupils’ levels of awareness
Council officer Lorna French said: ‘It’s important first of all to be clear that most of the issues that were brought forward related to pupil’s perception of racist conduct not being dealt with, not that there was a culture of teachers being racist.
‘But there were incidents of a lack of sensitivity when teaching the curriculum, which led to racist incidents taking place and that is the part of the issue which does connect to decolonising the curriculum.
‘So any teacher, not necessarily the Great Gatsby example, but another novel where the N-word is used, and when that is taught teachers can choose to put the context around it so that people understand racism at that time and racism now or they can skip pass that – depending on the approach taken racist incident can occur.’
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