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Schools must feature anti-racist messages across the curriculum, MSP says

Anas Sarwar (left) and lawyer Aamer Anwar at an anti-racist demonstration in Glasgow earlier this year (Mark Runnacles/PA)

The need for anti-racist education in schools is becoming more urgent than ever, teachers’ leaders have insisted.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan argued the rise of the far-right in politics made challenging prejudice an “important task” for all educators.

He spoke out as teachers and lecturers from across Scotland headed for Glasgow to take part in a special event to discuss what they can do to combat racism through education.

Labour’s Anas Sarwar, chair of Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Tackling Islamophobia, will use his speech at the event to call for anti-racism education to be embedded across the school curriculum.

The MSP, who has spoken out about the racist abuse he has received, also wants changes to teacher training, to make equality a more mainstream issue and for more heads and deputy heads to come from ethnic backgrounds.

He will also argue that social media platforms need to do more to tackle racist comments online, to prevent children from viewing these on their sites.

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Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Sarwar said: “Across Scotland, there are major challenges facing society with everyday racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and more.

“I warmly welcome the new guidance from the EIS on combating anti-Muslim prejudice in our schools and the recognition of the need to embed anti-racist education across the curriculum.

“Education is rightly seen as the vehicle to break the cycle of poverty, but it is also the vehicle to defeat prejudice and hate. Teaching a child can help educate and change a family, and it can educate and change a community.”

He added: “I falsely believed that the fight for equality in all its forms would be won by itself with time.

“I don’t believe that any more. Sadly, it seems the principles of equality, solidarity and unity are losing.

“It feels like we live in a time where division, anger and hate is now politically fashionable. We – a collective we – have to stand up, speak out and challenge that. The fight against all forms of hatred, prejudice and bigotry is a fight for all of us.”

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Mr Flanagan said the Teachers Turning the Tide event was part of the EIS’s “ongoing commitment to anti-racist education in schools, colleges and universities across Scotland”.

He stated: “Sadly, this work is becoming more urgent than ever, as a result of the growth of the far right across Europe and increase in racist attitudes in many parts of society including in political debate and via mass media.”

Priya Khindria, campaign manager for Show Racism the Red Card, said: “It is extremely important that anti-racist education is included in Scottish schools’ curriculum. As a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, Scotland’s young people need to be educated around these topics.

“It is not simply enough to discipline those who exhibit racist behaviours – we must be proactive in teaching young people to prevent racist incidents from occurring.

“Embedding anti-racist education across the curriculum will also help teachers be aware of how they should respond to these types of behaviours and feel confident in approaching what can sometimes be a daunting topic.”

Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney said: “Our education system is already designed to help tackle racism at every level, just as we are committed to tackling all forms of bigotry, prejudice and discrimination.
 
“Our race equality framework for Scotland 2016-2030 outlines a range of actions we are taking, including ensuring that equality and intercultural competency training resources are developed and made available to practitioners at all stages of their careers – through initial teacher education, induction and career long professional learning.
 
“We want to build inclusive, resilient and safe communities in Scotland where everyone feels connected, has a sense of belonging and feels valued.

“We will continue to celebrate the fullness of Scotland’s diversity – everyone in Scotland must be empowered to achieve their potential irrespective of race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”