Edinburgh Council denies 'institutional racism' claims as investigation launched into equalities processes

Edinburgh City ChambersEdinburgh City Chambers
Edinburgh City Chambers
Education chiefs have launched an investigation into equalities processes after parents accused them of 'institutional racism' after language support services were cut back.

Council equalities policies have been branded “institutionally racist” by parents who have pleaded with education bosses to reverse cuts to English as an additional language services.

Edinburgh City Council’s education convener, Cllr Ian Perry, has launched an investigation into whether the correct processes were followed in rolling out a new service after parents from Dalry Primary School said the lack of consultation on the changes had been “frightfully shocking”.

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The parents claim the were given just a couple of weeks’ notice that its allocation of support staff was being cut from three days a week to one – despite Dalry Primary having 203 out of 298 children with English as an additional language (EAL). The council insists a new model of support – where class teachers are equipped with “the right skills” and specialist EAL teachers act as advisers – represents an improvement and is already used in several other schools.

Umbreen Khalid, representing Dalry Primary’s parent council, said: “We asked for new information on the new model and we haven’t really got it. Through a freedom of information (FOI) request, we got an interim impact assessment, which was not signed and not dated and very vague.

“For something we feel has a high level of impact on ethnic minorities, as per Edinburgh Council policy, an equalities impact assessment should have been completed before it was implemented.”

She added: “Our fear that this is going to cause totally unrealistic demands on classroom teachers has not been allayed in any way.

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“The whole process has been extremely difficult and the issues of equity have not been properly addressed in a way that implies that there is some indirect discrimination going on – in the lack of processes which are happening in the roll-out of this policy. That would qualify as institutional racism as the definition in the Macpherson report.”

Fellow Dalry parent, Mridul Wadhwa, added: “I think the absence of real engagement with parents and teachers in this process is frightfully shocking.”

Councillors also raised concerns about the correct processes being followed.

SNP Cllr Ellie Bird said: “Issues around the FOI, I find that quite disturbing and disconcerting. I would like to know what consultation was done with the school community, I want to know why there had to be an FOI for this because that does seem wrong and why this interim equalities impact was not dated, was not full and not immediately available and accessible to the school community.

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“We continually talk about comprehensive education. To have truly comprehensive education, we are going to have to have that diversity and equality and inclusion – and this seems not to have met that.”

Green Cllr Chas Booth added: “How is it that apparently an equalities impact assessment was not properly carried out in this case – which seems to me, to be quite a staggering fault on behalf of the council?”

Cllr Perry said that an assessment was carried out in 2017, when the policy was first tabled – but an investigation will take place to establish whether the process and the assessment is sufficient for this and all council policies.

He said: “I am grateful to Dalry parent council for their ongoing engagement and for their contribution at committee earlier this week.

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“I look forward to working with them to address the concerns raised and in particular I note their comments around the Macpherson Report. I do not believe this is institutionally racist but I am seeking advice to ensure our approach is compliant.”