Members of the British National Party (BNP) could be banned from joining school governing bodies after a teachers' union vowed to fight for a change in the law.
Last Wednesday, the National Association of Schoolmasters' Union of Woman Teachers (NASUWT) announced it will seek a judicial review to stop BNP councillors being allowed onto school governing boards. The decision follows news that an unnamed primary school is holding an election this term that could see a BNP councillor become vice-chair of its governing body.
A Kent spokesperson for the union said: "The BNP is a racist and fascist organisation which incites hatred, opposes equality and divides communities. The NASUWT believes that the views of the BNP are incompatible with the ethos of public service and does not believe that the BNP's cynical use of the democratic processes of national and local government should be considered as legitimising their vile agenda."
The union, which represents nearly 250,000 teachers nationwide, has long campaigned for BNP members to be prohibited from working as teachers and is now extending that to include governors.
Kathy Duggan, NASUWT representative for Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich, said: "It's morally reprehensible, politically insane and educationally foolhardy to allow members of the BNP on school governing boards. The BNP openly say that they don't want black people or people who are not indigenous to this country - basically anyone who is not white - to have any part at all in public life. They are despicable. Governors are supposed to represent the whole community. How a BNP member could do that with those sorts of views, I do not know."
John Oakes, head of Dartford Grammar School for Boys, in West Hill, said he agreed entirely with NASUWT's position. He said: "The school would not support, and would be reluctant to tolerate, any member of the school community, including the governing body, who displays bigotry or prejudice. The ethos of the school, full endorsed by the whole school community, is one of internationalism and respect, attaching great value to diversity and differences."
In a statement, NASUWT say that the appointment of a BNP councillor to a governing board would conflict with Section 71 of the Race Relations Act 1976. The Act states that public bodies, including governing bodies, must eliminate 'unlawful racial discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups'.
Brian Chadwick, North Kent secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: "Although we are not taking any action, the NUT takes a similar view to NASUWT. I don't need to spell out why we would not condone a BNP member joining a school governing body. They have as much right to expression as anybody, but that does not mean that they should be given a platform for their fundamentally racist views."
Former BNP member Mr Coleman, from Wilmington, who preferred not to disclose his first name, said: "The BNP is a totally legal political party. I don't see why any member of the party should be banned from doing any job. Members of any political party know that they have to leave politics at the door and get on with the job in hand."
The 25-year-old added: "And anyway, I'm not a racist."
John Stuart, of The Glen in Bromley, said: "The BNP is a democratic party like any other and we are supposed to have freedom of speech in this country so I think this is outrageous.