Edinburgh secondary school faces racism allegations from more than 30 pupils

More than 30 students have come forward with allegations of what have been described as institutional racism at an Edinburgh secondary school after a former pupil launched a campaign to highlight the issue.

Monday, 6th July 2020, 9:34 am
More than 30 pupils have come forward outlining racial discrimination they claim to have experienced

The dossier, compiled by 19-year-old Miguel Chui , has now received more than 30 independent testimonies from pupils outlining racial discrimination they claim to have experienced at St Augustine’s RC High School in Broomhouse Road.

Some accounts speak of racial slurs such as ‘Nigerian people are so loud’ while others highlight specific situations of humiliation that black and ethnic minority pupils say they have faced in the classroom.

The testimonies, which come from members of the Asian, Black and White-Polish communities, refer to ‘lack of support from senior leadership’ as the main factor allowing racist behaviour to continue in the school.

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Edinburgh University law student Miguel, who is of Malaysian and Chinese identity, said: “The main reason why racism thrives at St Augustine’s is due to senior staff members ignoring reports of racism and thereby allowing racist incidents to continue.

“Phrases such as ‘go back to where you came from’, ‘Muslims are terrorists’ and ‘Chinese people eat dogs’ are commonly heard from pupils and when reported will often result in silence from senior staff.

“As a result of the school’s approach to handling racist incidents, pupils are not afraid to be racist towards other students of colour, knowing that they will be protected by the system.”

Councillor Alison Dickie, the city council’s vice-convener for education, children and families, said: “Although there is a lot of positive work taking place across our schools, we fully realise that much more needs to be done. This involves listening to the young people who have experienced racism and placing them in the driving seat of our work towards race equality.”

Miguel’s experiences are echoed in other pupil testimonies.

One pupil wrote: “I would have been in the class of 2020 but I left early due to the toxic environment.”

Another statement wrote: “There have been countless times where I have been called names such as “monkey” or “slave” and when I would report it to senior management they would never do anything about the situation.”

A teacher who works at St Augustine’s High School and has more than 25 years of experience, spoke to the Evening News about the allegations.

The teacher said: “While I have not seen any racism in my own classroom I have witnessed parents who have come into school over issues of racial bullying after the issue has been initially swept under the carpet as ‘normal child fallout’.

“When I first heard about the allegations I felt disbelief, but then I realised I couldn’t be surprised by them. In light of everything we are hearing about what is happening in the world, it makes sense that it is also happening at St Augustines.”

Miguel said that he has been inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests in America to take a stand against racial injustice in Scottish schools.

He said: “I would like to stress that St. Augustine’s is not an isolated case. Racism is ingrained across the education system in Scotland.”

The dossier of accounts from recent and current pupils at St Augustine’s has been submitted to Edinburgh City Council and the Scottish Government.A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is clear that there is no place for racism in our schools. Diversity and equality are at the heart of policies that underpin education in Scotland. We need to be vigilant in challenging any racist and abusive behaviour in our schools.”