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NEU conference backs motion to tackle race inequalities and protect black teachers and students

DELEGATES to the National Education Union’s (NEU) annual conference rallied behind a motion today to tackle race inequalities and protect black teachers and students in schools.

The union, which represents more than 400,000 teaching staff, stressed the time for “robust action” had come to tackle issues around the retention of black teachers and a rise in the racial bullying of black pupils in England.

The algorithm used in last year’s “assessment fiasco,” which advantaged children in private schools and therefore penalised black and disadvantaged students, highlighted the “unfairness built into current national education policy,” the NEU warned.  

The union pointed to the fact that black pupils were more likely to be excluded as another sign of this disparity.

Addressing the virtual event, NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the Covid-19 pandemic had “laid bare the extent of racial inequalities” in Britain. 

“Racism 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 exclusions reduced by giving schools the tools they need — smaller classes, a flexible and engaging curriculum, and much more investment for pastoral systems.”

In June 2020, the NEU wrote to the government with five demands to enable all young people to benefit from “equitable education systems” and a curriculum which teaches British and global history more inclusively.

In response to Black Lives Matter protests which swept the country last summer, many teachers reported taking it upon themselves to “decolonise” their classroom materials due to inaction from ministers on the issue.

To support black teachers, the NEU has called on the Department for Education to draw up a strategy to make the profession more representative and more open to promotion for black staff. 

“We need to look at the causes of racism and poverty and educate very proactively against the attitudes and economics that create racial prejudice — especially at a time when far-right groups are very actively targeting teenagers online,” Mr Courtney added.

“This is not the time for patience but for robust action. 

“Racism will not be addressed without positive action and we need to talk openly and candidly about the social division and harmful stereotyping it creates.”

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