Councillors vote to beef up anti-racist education in schools

Teaching staff at schools across Brighton and Hove will receive more training to deal with institutional racism and bias.

Members of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee agreed to look at the training aimed at giving teachers “practical tools” to teach about racism, colonialism and global citizenship.

The decision came after a motion by Green councillor Hannah Clare and Labour councillor Kate Knight went before a “virtual” meeting of the committee today (Monday 15 June).

Councillors said that they wanted teachers to have “practical tools” devised in collaboration with members of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

They also asked Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Geoff Raw to write to the Education Secretary and Shadow Education Secretary.

They want the government to embed BAME history in the curriculum and provide more financial support for training about race, prejudice and privilege.

Councillor Clare said that the joint motion to support the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in the city was “long overdue”.

She said that people had said “time and time again” that society was institutionally racist and early intervention was essential.

Starting to change the education system was a long process of chipping away at an unfair society, she told the committee.

Councillor Clare said: “We know that the BAME population in the city is highest among young people. So it’s really important for them that we get it right in the places they are which is currently in our schools.

“We want to help educate young people on the history of oppression that BAME communities have faced so they can face up to what it means now. We want to address persistent issues of bias.

“We want to make sure the experiences of our BAME communities are understood by all. This will work towards making our schools better for parents, students and staff.”

She said that government involvement was essential to make sure the “glossed over” history of oppression was changed.

Councillor Kate Knight

Councillor Knight said that she was shocked and appalled by the murder of George Floyd and also ashamed that a situation like this had occurred again.

She said that now was the time to take action to show the BAME communities they will see an “actual” difference in their lives by starting with education.

Councillor Knight said: “My grandson is absolutely incensed by the gaping holes in his education – mine was woeful in this respect – but it is not too late to put that right for him and his generation.

“Let’s all make sure that this is the last generation to lack knowledge about black history and the part that Britain played in the oppression.

“And the last generation not to be fully aware of the contribution BAME communities have made and continue to make to the world’s achievements. That is the very least we can do.”

Councillor Hannah Clare

Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown said that her group wished that the motion did not contain such “divisive” language and that Labour and Green members had worked with her party on the wording.

She said that the idea had been put forward with the best intentions but she did not recognise the councillors’ “depressing description” Brighton and Hove, a city of sanctuary.

Protesters gather for the Black Lives Matter march at the weekend

Councillor Brown said: “We do not believe there is institutional racism right across the city and we definitely do not believe the teachers in our schools are racist.

“This city is a diverse, tolerant and welcoming city to all our black and ethnic minority residents and visitors alike.

“We believe schools go out of the way to support children and young people no matter what their colour or creed.”

Councillor Brown said that it was not the council’s place to “micromanage” how schools taught social history as it was a matter for the government.

The three Conservative councillors abstained from the vote.

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