November 02, 2010

BNP members to be barred from teaching

Headteachers are to be given the power to dismiss teachers who are members of the BNP or other groups which have an "extremist tenor".

The pledge by the education secretary, Michael Gove, follows the case of a BNP activist who used a school laptop to post comments describing some immigrants as "filth". Gove said he would allow school heads and governing bodies to sack teachers for membership of the far-right party. Members of the BNP are barred from working as police or prison officers.

The minister told the Guardian: "I don't believe that membership of the BNP is compatible with being a teacher. One of the things I plan to do is to allow headteachers and governing bodies the powers and confidence to be able to dismiss teachers engaging in extremist activity.

"I would extend that to membership of other groups which have an extremist tenor. I cannot see how membership of the British National party can co-exist with shaping young minds."

The crackdown was welcomed by the NASUWT teaching union, which has called for a ban. Its general secretary, Chris Keates, said: "I hope this is something Michael Gove takes forward as quickly as possible. It is an important part of safeguarding the interests of young people."

Adam Walker, a BNP member and teacher at a school near Sunderland, was cleared of racial and religious intolerance by a disciplinary panel in June this year. He wrote in an online forum that Britain was a "dumping ground for the filth of the third world". But while the panel said the comments were troubling, it was not satisfied that they showed intolerance.

Delivering the General Teaching Council's verdict, the chair, Angela Stones, said: "A negative comment about immigration to the UK of itself need not be indicative of racist views or racial intolerance, since the race of immigrants is extremely varied."

The GTC, the profession's watchdog, was abolished a week later. In a Commons statement, Gove cited the decision made on the Walker case as "quite wrong".

The previous government ruled out banning BNP members from teaching after an independent inquiry into racism in schools decided it would be disproportionate. Maurice Smith, a former chief inspector of schools, said a ban would be "taking a very large sledgehammer to crack a minuscule nut". He also described it as a "profound political act".

The review found that in the past seven years four teachers and two governors had been publicly identified as members of racist organisations, and that only nine incidents of teachers making racist remarks or possessing racist material had been subject to GTC disciplinary sanction.

Critics say this review over-emphasised the number of incidents, rather than their potential impact on a classroom. Keates said: "It's not an issue of scale. That was our biggest criticism of Maurice Smith's report. T the issue is one of making sure that a clear message goes out that membership of the BNP and other extremist groups is incompatible with being a teacher."

Gove outlined plans to ban the BNP from classrooms in an interview in which he also said he would not oppose parents and teachers if they rejected his traditionalist views on the curriculum.

At this year's Conservative party conference, Gove said historian Simon Schama would advise on an overhaul of the history curriculum to ensure that no pupil leaves school without learning "narrative British history". English teaching will also be reformed to ensure that canonical writers such as Pope, Shelley, Dryden, Dickens and Hardy are at the heart of the curriculum.

He said he believed there was an "unfulfilled appetite" for a more classical education. But he insisted teachers could steer their own course. "The idea of the reforms I'm about to bring about is that if the professional wisdom of teachers takes them in a different direction, and the common sense of parents takes that direction, I won't stand in their way."

The Guardian


Ben Trunch said...

Welcome but long overdue. "...shaping young minds"? The BNP seek to warp the minds of our young with their insidious, rapacious xenophobia. No place for them in our British nations' schools.

Anonymous said...

It's about time.

anarchist said...

Who defines 'extremist'?

Anonymous said...

The BNP have got teachers ? They should employ one to learn clive jefferson to do sums in his new party role or maybe the funds are now so dried up if will suit clive as he can count from 1 - 10.

Barbara said...

It seems incredible that it took so long.
A teacher has tremendous power in the classroom. A child can be crushed by a word or a look, or the lack of them.
Members of groups such as the BNP have declared themselves as dedicated racists with unsafe opinions on handicap and gender.
Such people are unfit to be in a classful of children.

Anonymous said...

it will be interesting to see the reaction of the right wing press. if it had been labour doing it they would have said its political correctness gone mad whilst condemning the bnp at the end of the article.

AndyMinion said...

Thanks a bunch for giving the BNP a gift, Gove...

Aside from presenting the Nazzers with just the kind of rallying point a new “Civil Rights” organisation can only dream of, I can't, sadly, see how this legislation will be framed: the list of proscribed organisations would be so long as to become quickly unworkable, and can still do nothing to combat privately-expressed opinion.

I was taught (in the 70's) by an open fascist who shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near a classroom (and who, years later, I learned had never been a member of any outfit since a spell in the National Democratic Party in the 60's). He would often whip out a photo of himself meeting Luis Carrero-Blanco – Franco's successor – and was the first person I ever heard try and argue that the Holocaust was a “Zionist hoax”. I was also taught by a member of the Worker's Revolutionary Party who barely disguised his open contempt for both a Ukrainian and a Sinhalese friend.

In fact, just as bad a teacher as those two was a Mr Ross, who never taught us music because he was forever banging on about his theories on the whereabouts of Atlantis.

Maybe a list of proscribed organisations is just a start: Perhaps judging teachers (and harshly with it) by their actions in the classroom is what we really need to be looking at.

Barbara said...

Hi Andy! I so enjoy your posts!

This is a really tricky subject. I think that when politics are kept private, fair enough. But it's different when a person joins a political party that is dedicated to the assumption that some British citizens should be favoured over others.
That overt attitude has no place in schools.

Anonymous said...

If you investigate further you will find that a ban would be applied against those of an 'extremist tenor' which presumably to a Tory includes islamic and far-left activists? As always the mention of the BNP bogeyman is a fig leaf for something more profound. Andy is correct it is action not thought that must be judged.

@ said...

i dont think this is such a good idea personally - as an anarchist working in social care/work - will i be deemed an extremist and fired? history has taught me and a few folks i know a few harsh lessons - already been known for feds to 'have a word' with employers, i think this is a worrying development.

Anonymous said...

It seems incredible that it took so long.
A teacher has tremendous power in the classroom. A child can be crushed by a word or a look, or the lack of them.
Members of groups such as the BNP have declared themselves as dedicated racists with unsafe opinions on handicap and gender.
Such people are unfit to be in a classful of children.

Barbara silly silly old lady, you & your silly little friends are the fascists & are brian washing our kids. Now do everyone a favour & fuck off & die.

iliacus said...


Spot on!

I fear this will simply feed the BNP's persecution complex. Not that I'm bothered by that, per se - but I am bothered that it could be used to persuade people that 'they' [the mysterious 'they'] are curtailing people's rights, and it could be 'them' - the readers/ listeners - next.

I was taught by a right mix of teachers, but to try to classify them on the basis of membership or non-membership of particular organisations? Bad move.

Federico said...

Carrero-Blanco was blown to bits by ETA. His car ended on the roof of a church IIRC - hence the joke slogan "Up Franco! Higher than Carrero-Blanco!"

Anonymous said...

I was taught (in the 70's) by an open fascist

I was taught in the early 80's by a teacher who openly used to mock me because I have an Irish surname and would seek to humiliate me with jokes about 'thick paddies' and she asked me once if I had a "bomb in my school bag". I replied, "Yeah, I have and it's going under your car". That naturally led to detention.

Today she would get disciplined and quite rightly so. However, expelling teachers from the profession for mere membership/support is completely out-of-order and will hurt the Left more than the Right.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the BNP's Richard Edmonds a former teacher who was fired for political activities? He used a financial settlement to help buy the old BNP bookshop in Welling in the late eighties.

There was also this notorious case in Canada: