Monday, 25 April 2016

Former Black Teacher at Elstree UTC Slams School Over Racism

Elstree University Technical College (EUTC) : A former Black teacher writes of the racism he encountered. Andrew Byran an Art Technical teacher at EUTC from October 2014 - August 2015. You can read the background to this story here.

 I find it horrendous that when we have so few black male teachers they should suffer such terrible racism and confirms the atmosphere and culture of racism that exists at this school. Andrew is not alone, bot more of that later. Here's his story...

What is Racism - and who is qualified to flag it up in the school environment?

"These are 2 questions that black people discuss from time to time, normally when a friend happens to be going through a trying time at work. The various stages go from vague feelings of uneasiness at things said or not said, silences at times when in normal conversations with white colleagues (normally line managers) the air might be filled with words and even laughter, feelings of being undermined that you’re not entirely sure about - so you watch for it again and again and cannot believe it when it actually happen again.

But not by teachers! 
The thought of who would believe ‘you’, a black person who may simply be bad at the job, crying wolf or have that ‘lump of rock’ on the shoulder.

Being told that your work is substandard and that you’re aggressive, when you’ve actually been bending over backwards to be flexible and not rock the boat, but to smile at all times so as not to appear threatening, remembering to leave your black self at home where it belongs and not bring it to work.

Of course the problem black people have is that you can indeed leave much of your ‘black self’ at home. You can even cover your kinky hair with a straight weave. But you cannot cover your skin.

And, if indeed racism is about colour, power and prejudice, then those of us of the darkest hue have a problem in a work place controlled by potential racists.

Mr Ferguson UTC 
Now I know what some of you are saying, ‘Well, not all white people are racist.. right’.  Now I can agree with that statement. But I’m saying something slightly different, which is ‘all racists are white people’. Ok you’ve never thought of it that way have you?  This is a correct statement only if racism is power plus prejudice.

Power in the sense that even in 2016, most UK institutions, companies and systems that govern people in society are led and controlled by white people. Thus they have system power. Such is the case in education. So white people somewhere in schools have to be racist, right?

This brings me to a situation I encountered at a poorly run school Elstree UTC I taught at from October 2014 to August 2015.  I say poorly run due to the fact Ofsted judged the leadership as a ‘3’.

Needless to say the then Head teacher subsequently lost her job but surprisingly other senior team members kept theirs. I also say poorly run because on beginning my employment there, I discovered that YR11 and YR13 students had completed little if any worthwhile coursework the previous academic year.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was being asked to get students to complete 2 years worth of coursework in less than 1 academic year. Was this a set up? Was the idea to pin this fiasco on the unsuspecting new black Joe?

I suddenly felt like Barak Obama brought in to sort out or take the fall for the economic mess left by Bush and his dad.

Well it was too late to run so I had to stay.

However back to the main issue and point of this article namely one of racism in education. Now would ever expect a teacher to get away with calling a student a nigger? Well as crazy as that sounds that’s exactly what happened at this particular school what a white male teacher, called a black student a Nigger in front of a class full of students.

Then to add insult to injury when a member of the senior team met with the student he defended the use of the word nigger by the white male teacher saying the word was regularly used by young black people. The incident was effectively hushed up.

There’s not enough room here to list all the other instances but there are many more.

The power to hire and fire people is also a point at which the ‘R’ word can raise is nasty head. At this particular school it became apparent that black staff contracts were not being re renewed in particular departments but a decision was made to hire white staff in those same departments. Elsewhere a white student teacher who was always late to work had been taken on while a black and an Asian media teachers were not.

Finally regarding myself. You know when you experience bullying, victimization or racist antics, you may at first not quite recognize it let alone know what to do about it as it may catch you off guard and pass you by before you get time to react. My case involved the teacher who called the black male student a nigger and the same senior teacher who defended him.

So, in walk both these two characters into my teaching room with the senior teacher demanding to see completed paperwork, which I had not managed to complete.  Although I apologized and said I he would have them end of play on that day or latest the next day he insisted on drilling, chastising and belittling me.

This went on for about half an hour with him refusing to accept my apology and with the pair of them refusing to let me speak. 

He then sent me an email afterwards where he proceeded to label me as ‘aggressive’.  

Yes his actions were completely unprofessional and shocking in the extreme but this tandem bullying and victimization wasn’t the thing that really got me. You see what really got me when I thought about it was the fact that besides writing this article, I was completely powerless to do anything about it, such are the power dynamics involved in racist practice. Black members of staff have very little protection from racist antics of those with a mind to practice racism.   

So, who is qualified to flag up racism in the school environment? The answer is everybody! And everyone must. 

So I write this article in the hope that racism, bullying, victimization and all other forms of discrimination can be brought to an end and dealt with robustly when it occurs, as no black student or staff member should have to deal with this as it causes stress and anxiety in staff and the total disengagement of students as was the effect on the black male student mentioned in this article.  

Needless to say I left this particular school but feel sorry for all the students both black and white and staff who are still there."