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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

BNP members have foothold in schools, say teachers

NUT delegates say BNP members should be banned from becoming teachers or governors

British National Party members have gained a foothold in schools across some parts of the country, teachers warned today.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) – the biggest classroom union – argued that teachers or parent governors who sympathised with the BNP should be banned from schools.
Last month, ministers ruled out banning members of the far right party from the teaching profession, after an independent inquiry into racism in schools decided such a move would be disproportionate.

But Jason Hill, a teacher in Stoke-on-Trent, in Staffordshire, which has eight BNP councillors, told the NUT's annual conference in Liverpool that there were "a number" of school governors from the far right party in his area and he believed they should be stripped of their posts.
"We haven't succeeded in removing a single one," he said. "Members of the BNP should be barred from this position."
Prison officers are not allowed to be members of the BNP; the same should be the case for those who work in education, he said. "There is a duty on governors and teachers to promote positive community relations. Those who can't accept these values should be banned."

Teachers from Derby, in the East Midlands, and Dudley, in the West Midlands, said they knew of BNP sympathisers working in education.
Jayne Sinden, a teacher from Dudley, said she came into teaching to "make the world a better place" and was "not going to let those Nazis stop me doing that".
But Jean Roberts, a teacher from Hammersmith and Fulham, in west London, said, while she detested the BNP's views, it was a legal party. "I don't believe the NUT should call on the state to bar teachers from joining a presently legal political party.
"To remove such a basic civil right, the right of association, something trade unionists find especially precious, is in my view a grossly disproportionate response. But more importantly, it gives the BNP a credibility it does not deserve."

The union was debating a resolution stating that the BNP, and other similar organisations, posed a threat to community relations. It called on the union to "reaffirm its belief" that being a member of an organisation like the BNP "is incompatible with the role of a teacher, or other member of a school staff, in a democratic and multiracial society".
An amendment to the motion called for the NUT to lobby the government to enact legislation to ban members of parties like the BNP from working in teaching.
The NUT did not pass the resolution or the amendment, after running out of time for the debate.
Last month, ministers said the issue of whether those who belong to racist organisations should be prevented from teaching – as they are from working as police or prison officers – would be reviewed annually.
But a separate inquiry has been announced into whether measures to stop racism being promoted in independent schools are adequate, provoking an angry response from representatives of the private sector.

In his review for the government, Maurice Smith, a former chief inspector of schools, said he had decided banning teachers from being BNP members would be "taking a very large sledgehammer to crack a minuscule nut".
Paul Golding, BNP communications officer, said: "It's a dangerous road to go down: once you start banning based on political beliefs where does it end? Isn't that the sort of thing always lambasted by democratic politicians, banning people based on political beliefs?"

The Guardian