Three BNP councillors have failed to become governors at a school with a significant number of ethnic minority pupils.
Party officials today denied claims they were trying to stir up racial tension by trying to get so many members on the governing body at Edensor Technology College in Longton. The vacant positions were for local authority-nominated governors and Stoke-on-Trent City Council voted for three Labour representatives instead.
Edensor, where more than 14 per cent of the school's 1,000 pupils are thought to come from ethnic minorities, is facing closure as part of plans to create an academy in Park Hall. The other main "predecessor" school for the academy, Mitchell Business and Enterprise College in Bucknall, has a predominantly white pupil population.
Anti-fascist groups and teaching unions claim the far-right party is trying to influence governing bodies so it can campaign against ethnic and religious integration. But Alby Walker, BNP group leader on the city council, said: "Our concerns were never about trying to interfere with the school's intake with regard to ethnicity. The current main concern we have is the Park Hall site for the academy. We are also against academies of 1,000 to 1,500 pupils because we think they have so many pupils it's like factory-farming."
At Thursday's full council meeting, Labour put up candidates for Edensor at the last minute after it emerged the BNP was proposing three people. Labour group leader Mike Barnes said: "I have to question their motives in putting so many people forward. There are quite a number of schools with vacancies. The BNP decided to put names forward for this school and haven't done it for others. Edensor isn't in their wards."
All three BNP nominees for Edensor – councillors Steve Batkin, Phillip Sandland and David Marfleet – represent Bentilee and Townsend. One other BNP councillor, Melanie Baddeley, was elected unopposed as governor in Carmountside Primary in Abbey Hulton.
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said she was "extremely concerned" at the BNP's attempts to influence the work of school governing bodies. She claimed the party's activities resulted in "race-hate incidents" which impacted on pupils and staff.
Pete Jackson, campaigns worker for the Anti-Academies Alliance, said: "There have been a number of occasions in different parts of the country where the BNP has tried to ride the anti-academy campaign for their own benefit."
The BNP's local government election manifesto states: "We are totally opposed to the massively expensive, politically correct social engineering policy of destroying perfectly good local secondary schools in order to 'integrate' communities which wish to preserve a distance between themselves. There is nothing 'super' about super-schools which, experience has shown, are riddled with tension between pupils from an Islamic background and everyone else."