'A slap in the face' - ex-pupil slams Edinburgh City Council's 'meaningless’ investigation into racism at city schools

A victim of racist abuse at an Edinburgh school has branded a council report into a string of complaints by former pupils a ‘slap in the face’.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 6:22 pm
Ex-pupil Miguel Chui spoke out about the institutionalised racism he faced at St Augustine's RC High School.

The investigation was launched in July 2020 after 73 students from St Augustine’s, Holy Rood, Craigmount, Drummond and Firrhill High school’s came forward with their experiences of racism.

Complainants have branded the school’s environment “toxic” and told of being called racist slurs such as "monkey" or "slave" and told to “go home”.

The report found no evidence to support complaints that schools enabled racism but concluded that more could be done within schools to develop a firm anti-racist perspective.

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More than 40 pupils have said they experienced racism while at St Augustine's High School.

Miguel Chui, an ex-pupil at St Augustine's High School who compiled a dossier of 40 complaints, labelled the report devastating'.

Victims were shocked to learn that no disciplinary action was going to be taken against staff members mentioned. The names of certain teachers appeared in multiple complaints, with one member of senior management mentioned by every pupil.

Mr Chui said: “The reports are a slap on the wrist for teachers and a slap in the face for pupils.

“After eight long months waiting for this report we expected something substantial, but the report is meaningless.

“There is no mention of accountability, just performative action points.”

He added: “One teacher was named in 40 different accounts of racism towards pupils and from what I gather this teacher has not been fired or even received a warning – there has been no consequence for her actions.

“Without accountability, all teachers have learned from this process that even with overriding evidence against them they can still get away with racist behaviour.

“If I was a teacher I'd feel even more comfortable being racist now.”

The council has set out an action plan to improve race relations in schools which will include appointing pupil and staff equalities co-ordinators, increasing guidance and training for dealing with incidents.

A personal letter has been sent to each complainant, summarising their complaint and detailing the conclusions and next steps relating to their investigation.

Councillor Ian Perry, Education, Children and Families Convener, said: “Firstly I want to apologise unreservedly to any of our young people who felt their concerns or reports about racism were not taken seriously or that their school has not dealt with any incidents properly. I want to thank everyone who has come forward and brought these allegations to light for sharing their personal accounts and recollections and to the staff who took part in the inquiry.

“This will have been very difficult for our young people but hearing their voices has allowed this investigation to take place and has shown clearly what is needed to drive forward positive change in our schools.

“This was a very thorough investigation and as a result we now have a clear and very robust action plan which can only strengthen our commitment to dealing with racism. Ultimately, we all want every young person who attends our schools to feel safe and supported as they go through their education. I hope that the lessons learned from this investigation will mean that many more young people feel that this will improve as a result.”

Vice Convener councillor Alison Dickie, added: “I’m so sorry that young people have felt their voices weren’t being heard and have had to resort to being part of this investigation to help bring about change. I want to praise them all for showing such strength in coming forward to raise these issues with us. They have all shown great patience and co-operation while their complaints were being investigated. While this will have been a difficult process, it is only by hearing their voices that we can fully understand the experiences that young people have and make improvements.

“Racism is an issue that needs both city and council-wide action. This is about a change of culture and systems. Although there is positive work taking place across our schools, we fully realise that much more needs to be done. This involves listening to young people who have experienced racism and placing them in the driving seat of our work towards race equality.

“Already, as a direct result of that direct voice, we are working to increase staff training, develop an anti-racist and culturally inclusive curriculum and empower young people with lived experiences across our schools to lead on improving our procedures for the reporting of racist incidents. Delivery is key, and we will do that together.”

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