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Our response to a rising far right needs to be strong and clear

The NEU pledges to do everything in our power to combat racism in education and within wider society, says KEVIN COURTNEY

THE lessons of history form the subject matter of classes delivered by National Education Union (NEU) members up and down the country.

History teachers delivering the GCSE curriculum discuss the rise of fascism, the second world war and the barbarity of the Holocaust with their pupils.

They talk about the economic and political conditions that led to the rise of the far right and the movement that grew to defeat the nazis across the globe.

But, as the horrific events in New Zealand just yesterday have shown, the violent doctrine of fascism is far from a footnote of history.

Racism and far-right movements are growing across the world, fuelled by the economic and political crisis sweeping across continents.

Donald Trump in the US, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon in Britain. All personifications of movements that embody growing prejudice and racism across the globe.

Our response, as education professionals and trade unionists, needs to be strong and clear. Discussion on the far right and racism needs to break out of our history lessons and permeate every corner of the school community.

Racism is not talked about enough in schools, even at a time when intolerance is increasing within society.

Children come to school in a world that is not equal. Black and ethnic minority teachers (BME) and pupils face racism in the streets, in popular culture and in employment.

Our members are at the sharp end of combatting prejudice and intolerance –—addressing educational imbalance for children from BME families; under-reporting of racist incidents in schools; increases in exclusions and enforced home learning for some black children; encouraging young people to discuss the world despite the chilling effects of the Prevent strategy; and worries about the growing influence of the far right on our children.

Our educators find their paths blocked too — institutional racism is still a feature in schools; not enough of our teachers come from BME communities and black educators are under-represented in leadership positions.

For all these reasons and more, we must urgently open up conversations about racism and Islamophobia in staffrooms, classrooms and in the curriculum.

Strategies to better use the potential of schools and colleges to reduce racism are urgently needed.

The government has starved local authorities of the funds and remit they need to sustain the race equality teams which supported schools and developed anti-racist education and professional development opportunities.

It has given no thought to what to put in their place and does little to help the school community combat racism and intolerance when it rears its head.

Through our campaigning and equalities work, our union pledges to do everything in our power to combat racism in education and within wider society.

We are pleased to work with Stand Up to Racism, Hope Not Hate, Love Music Hate Racism and the fantastic educational work of Show Racism the Red Card to address the very real and rising threat of racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia.

Our members will be marching today and carrying its messages into schools and colleges throughout the country.

As our members will tell you, school can be an exemplar of how communities can understand, love and respect one another.

Friendships children make in the playground cut across prejudice and provide a real example to the rest of us of how kindness, understanding and solidarity can win the day.

Kevin Courtney is joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

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