Commenting on the passing of motion 21 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“Throughout 2020 and 2021, racism and the value of Black lives has been the subject of persistent and painful news stories, and the Covid pandemic has laid bare the extent of racial inequalities in all areas of social policy.
“The NEU will work to support members to raise issues of discrimination in their workplaces without recrimination.
“Race disparities in education are ongoing and can be seen in the issues around the retention and progression of Black staff, the increasing incidents of racial harassment and bullying and the disproportionality in the exclusion of Black students. The NEU developed an anti-racism charter to address the demand for change to the unrepresentative and narrow curriculum from parents and from the profession. (1) The algorithm used in last year's assessment fiasco, which advantaged children in private schools and therefore penalised Black and disadvantaged children, highlighted the NEU’s longstanding concerns about the unfairness built into current national policy in education. Racism and racial inequality is often in addition to the social exclusion, stress and stigma created for Black families from being trapped in poverty and low paid jobs.
“The racial disparity in student exclusions is a warning the country can't ignore. The NEU wants to see the number of student exclusions reduced by giving schools the tools they need – smaller classes, a flexible and engaging curriculum, and much more investment for pastoral systems. We must prevent exclusion by working with the young people at risk of exclusion, in multi-agency teams across schools, youth groups, and other services. This multi-agency co-operation and planning has been much harder because of local authority cuts.
“In June 2020, the NEU wrote to the Government with five demands to enable all children and young people to benefit from equitable education systems and a curriculum which teaches British and global history in representative and inclusive ways. (2) These proposals remain relevant and urgent. The Department for Education needs a strategy on making the teaching profession more representative and on progression and promotion for Black staff. Previous administrations have made more headway on ethnicity and progression in the profession, but robust strategies were dismantled.
"It is a symptom of poverty and racism that the majority of students in our Pupil Referral Units are working-class and Black students. We need to look at the causes of racism and poverty and educate very proactively against the attitudes and economics that create racial prejudice and racial profiling – especially at a time when far-right groups are very actively targeting teenagers online. Young people want to talk about racism, and their experiences in and out of school, but these opportunities are not being provided. Anti-racist work is made harder because of the packed curriculum, which is over-focused on knowledge at the expenses of skills, social development and developing self-worth.
“This is not the time for patience but for robust action against racism, including changes to the curriculum in England and building a more diverse profession. Racism will not be addressed without positive action and we need to talk openly and candidly about racism and the social division and harmful stereotyping it creates for Black workers and for young Black people.”