Black Lives Matter: How Edinburgh's schools are taking racism seriously – Steve Cardownie
There is no doubt that educating the next generation about the evils of racism is extremely important if we are to make inroads in eradicating this pernicious attitude which, unfortunately, is still all too evident in modern society. I have sought to teach my three sons that we “are all Jock Tamson’s bairns” and that discrimination on the grounds of colour or race is repugnant.
Given that this issue is being played out on our TV screens, sometimes with disastrous consequences, I was heartened to receive an e-mail from the headteacher of St Thomas of Aquin’s (my youngest son’s school) which detailed the school’s policy on this issue.
Christopher Santini wrote to all parents and guardians in the following terms under the heading of Black Lives Matter: “Recent events in the US, in particular the shocking death of George Floyd, and the global response are shining a light again on the harmful and persistent issue of institutionalised racism. This is no less an issue in the UK and Scotland. We have a list of similar deaths of black citizens, and we have witnessed the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
“I have already been contacted by pupils and parents with their concerns. We are all rightly asking what more we can and should do to support our black, Asian and minority ethnic pupils and colleagues.
“St Thomas’ wishes to re-affirm and strengthen our commitment to confronting and addressing racism and discrimination in all its forms through strong anti-racist leadership, teaching and youth work. The City of Edinburgh Council Steering Group (Education) recent engagement with BAME young people and partner organisations has shown that there is much more that we can do and we will continue to listen and learn.
“The steering group have started by implementing a revised anti-bullying procedure supported by training for senior leaders and pupil equalities groups and are working to ensure that black history and its role in our city is a core part of a decolonised and inclusive curriculum. There will be an increase in training for all school staff and the setting up of a working group as part of a national commitment to increasing diversity in the teaching workforce. St Thomas’ as well as all Edinburgh schools have a vital role to play in tackling racism and creating a city where all are treated with dignity and respect.
“We want all our children and young people to thrive and lead in a diverse and complex world. We do not underestimate the challenge of this deep-rooted problem. We are fully committed to making a difference, harnessing the compassion, energy and creativity of our children, young people, families and staff to make Edinburgh a city where there is no place for discrimination or injustice.”
I make no apologies for reproducing Christopher’s statement in full as I regard the sentiments expressed therein worthy of highlighting without edit or unnecessary emphasis.
On contacting Councillor Ian Perry, education convener, on this matter, he referred me to a city council statement, part of which reads: “As a council we treat allegations of racism very seriously. Now more than ever with the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement it’s an important time to reaffirm and strengthen our commitment to tackling the issue of racism and systematic inequalities for people of colour.”
It is comforting to note that this issue is being addressed in our schools and that my son is receiving the kind of education that should ensure that he grows up to be a citizen who embraces all races and cultures and not a narrow-minded bigot, the likes of which we witness all too often.
While schools play a very important role, we as parents and guardians, should not evade our responsibilities when it comes to influencing the youth of today in the hope and expectation that they will forge a better, more compassionate society than the one we are currently experiencing.
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