Racism allegations against teachers at Edinburgh school investigated amid global Black Lives Matter movement

Racism allegations against teachers at an Edinburgh secondary school are being investigated by council officials.
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The claims, made against staff at St Augustine's RC High School in Broomhouse Road, relate to the treatment of black pupils and have emerged amid the global Black Lives Matter movement.

The specific nature of the allegations is unclear but it is understood they have been made by a former pupil.

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The local authority is carrying out an investigation which is to be overseen by a race equality specialist who works in education.

A generic picture of a black schoolboy sitting against a wall. Pic: Rido-ShutterstockA generic picture of a black schoolboy sitting against a wall. Pic: Rido-Shutterstock
A generic picture of a black schoolboy sitting against a wall. Pic: Rido-Shutterstock
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The headmaster of St Augustine's, Michael McGee, revealed on the school's website that letters have been circulating on social media containing allegations of racism against their staff members and those at other city schools.

The message, addressed to parents and carers, said: "We treat allegations of racial abuse very seriously and in line with the authority and school’s equalities policy.

"Any allegations which are made are fully investigated and will continue to be so."

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Mr McGee said the school is proud of its diversity and that pupils come from many different backgrounds and beliefs, with 53 per cent of students not having English as their first language and 35 per cent from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

He said staff and pupils lead various assemblies and events throughout the year which highlight key themes and historical milestones. One example in 2015 involved a "multimedia experience" which celebrated the multi-cultural history of Scotland dating back 2000 years.

He said pupils learn about equality, inclusion, diversity and human rights in the school curriculum, specifically as part of religious education, personal and social education and social studies programmes.

The allegations come in the wake of recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US, sparked by the death of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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Anti-racism protests have also been taking place in the UK, including in Edinburgh, with many people calling for the removal of statues and street names which have links to slavery.

Allegations taken ‘seriously’

A message from Edinburgh City Council's equalities and steering group was also shared on the school website, which says it recognises institutional racism as an issue in this country and the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on people from BAME backgrounds.

The message says the local authority's commitment to confronting and addressing racism and discrimination will be done through "strong anti-racist leadership, teaching and youth work" and that they will keep listening and learning to do more.

The council has started implementing a revised anti-bullying procedure supported by training for senior leaders and pupil equalities groups, and is working to ensure black history and its role in Edinburgh forms part of an inclusive curriculum.

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Councillor Ian Perry, education convener, said: “As a council we treat allegations of racism very seriously and immediately started an investigation when these claims were brought to our attention.

"Now more than ever with the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement it’s an important time to re-affirm and strengthen our commitment to tackling the issue of racism and systemic inequalities for people of colour. We need to ensure we’re doing all we can to support our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic pupils and colleagues, through strong anti-racist leadership and teaching in our schools.

"Edinburgh is a multi-cultural city and by delivering together the change that we know is needed we will ensure that this is a city where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, where everyone belongs and feels they belong."

Education vice convener, Alison Dickie, said listening to young people who have experienced racism is key to changing culture and systems to celebrate black and minority communities and their contributions to the city.

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As a result, councillor Dickie says the local authority is already working to increase staff training, promoting the teaching of black history and empowering young people to lead on the revising of their procedures for the reporting of racist incidents.