A Muslim pupil told an Asian trainee on placement that she was being teased by other pupils. "Is your Dad a Taliban? We're killing loads of your lot in Afghanistan. It's revenge for the London bombings." The trainee asked if she had told her class teacher. The girl said she had and the teacher had said "Never mind, it's not serious. It will pass. You have to expect a bit of teasing."
1. Addressing the issue raised in the scenario
The pupil has obviously been upset by the incident and the student teacher/trainee's initial response of checking whether the class teacher has been informed is the right one. But the girl's reported exchange with the teacher shows the problem is more complex than it initially seemed. Added to the pupils hurtful jibes which equate her family, ethnicity, culture and religion with terrorism, the teacher appears to be not only insensitive to the depth of hurt caused but also unaware of the seriousness of the incident. Underlying the pupils ‘bit of teasing' there is a damaging elision of Asian culture, Islam and terrorism that the teacher and perhaps the school at large is failing to address. Given the school's obligations to promote community cohesion, and good race relations, and the provisions of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006) that makes threatening words an offence if they are intended to stir up religious hatred, it is important the trainee does not let the matter rest.
The student teacher/trainee should start with the school's policy on community cohesion and race equality to see how the incident is likely to be viewed by the management and governors. Then he/she should talk with the mentor to see how the pupil can be reassured and any other incidents monitored. Also with the mentor, the student teacher/trainee could, with the involvement of the class teacher, undertake to plan and deliver a short series of activities focusing on bullying with reference to culture, religion, diversity, inclusion and racism.
2. Finding out about rights and responsibilities:
Guidance on the Duty to Promote Community Cohesion (DCSF 2007) There is a clear responsibility on the part of schools to ‘promote a society in which the diversity of peoples' backgrounds is appreciated and valued'.
The Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000) The Act obliges all schools to eliminate discrimination and promote good race relations.
The Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006)
While criminalizing extreme cases of incitement to religious hatred, the Act also acknowledges the need to respect religious sensibilities.
Ofsted inspections require reference in the self-evaluation forms to how the school is combating racism and bullying.
Every Child Matters
Under the heading ‘Staying Safe' each pupil must be safeguarded from bullying and discrimination.
An informed awareness of and response to the situation will contribute significantly to meeting the requirements of number of Standards, particularly Q18 and Q19.
Q1.Have high expectations of children and young people including a commitment to ensuring that they can achieve their full educational potential and to establishing fair, respectful, trusting, supportive and constructive relationships with them.
Q 2: Demonstrate the positive values, attitudes and behaviour they expect from children and young people.
Q 3(a): Be aware of the professional duties of teachers and the statutory framework within which they work.
Q 3(b): Be aware of the policies and practices of the workplace and share in collective responsibility for their implementation
Q 18: Understand how children and young people develop and that the progress and well-being of learners are affected by a range of developmental, social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic influences.
Q 19: Know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, including those for whom English is an additional language or who have special educational needs or disabilities, and how to take practical account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching.
Find out more:
3. Using relevant Multiverse resources:
The Achievement of British Pakistani Learners - The Raise Project
The Raise project documents the achievement of British Pakistani learners and concludes that the students achieve better in schools that recognise and respect their cultural and religious heritage. Practical advice is provided including materials for ITE.
Teaching about Islam: Islamophobia in the classroom
Practical advice and classroom strategies for dealing with this challenging issue.
CLEO - Cumbria and Lancashire Education on line (2009)
Part of a series of video materials prepared to support teaching on a number of aspects of different religious traditions.
Antiracism: an Attainment Target for primary RE
The article shows how the use of Persona Dolls can be a valuable resource in addressing issues of racism in the primary school.
Show Racism the Red Card: Islamophobia.
Practical strategies and advice on addressing Islamophobia.
Using literature to address scapegoating
The article explores the phenomenon of scapegoating and provides a text and suggestions for revealing and challenging the scapegoating process in KS 3 -5 and ITE.
QCA Website: Respect for all
To ensure that all pupils will be prepared for the challenges of a mullti-cultural and multi-faith society the website presents under five headings - Inspection, the Curriculum, Preparation, Inside the Classroom and Outside the Classroom - guidance for teachers and trainees on modelling and promoting respect for diversity across the whole curriculum.