Report of the Black Teachers’ Conference 2011
Around 100 delegates attended the Black Teachers’ Conference 2011 which was held at Stoke Rochford Hall in November. The theme was ’20 years on and still going strong’, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the event. One delegate described the conference as “an essential event that all black teachers should attend at least once… it’s inspirational, highly informative, sociable and enlightening.”
Betty Joseph gave a welcoming address to delegates on the first morning. She spoke of her experiences as the Black Member Constituency Seat Holder on the NUT National Executive for 2010 - 2012. She reminded conference of the challenges facing black workers including the public sector cuts and the attacks on pensions and urged everyone to make a show of strength and solidarity on the day of action on 30th November. She encouraged delegates to be involved actively in the Union through local associations, regions and committees or in other ways, and to make things happen themselves.
Sam Makinde gave an introduction to the online professional networking site for black teachers which he co-ordinates, which can be found at www.blackteachers.org
Terry Mortimer, one of the earliest and most highly regarded champions of the black teachers’ movement, considered the progress of race equality in education over the last four decades, in a presentation entitled ‘Mind the Doors’. He combined political narrative with personal stories to give delegates an inspiring overview of how much had been achieved and how much further there was still to go. He described occasions when social, economic and political factors coincide, opening doors and creating opportunities for those who have been held back to move forwards and upwards in society. He suggested that such a time may be coming again and that, when it does, we should go through those doors, and be sure to do what we can to hold them open for as long as possible to enable others to follow. You can read Terry’s presentation here.
The General Secretary, Christine Blower, addressed the conference and thanked the activists who had been involved in organising the event over the last twenty years. She praised the pioneering success of black members within the Union and noted that the Black Teachers’ Conference has been the model for the annual conferences for disabled members and LGBT members. Christine also highlighted the work that has been undertaken recently in challenging racism and promoting the achievement of black pupils with partners such as Gus John, the Anthony Walker Foundation and Show Racism the Red Card.
Sam Makinde and Leonora Smith jointly chaired the Open Forum, with a panel consisting of the General Secretary, Christine Blower, NUT President, Nina Franklin, Betty Joseph, the Black Constituency Seat Holder of the NUT Executive, Samidha Garg, NUT Principal Officer for Race Equality and Clive Romain, NUT Senior Solicitor.
In discussion the following points were raised:
- There is a need for a greater number of black teachers generally and for a greater number of black teachers to put themselves forward for leadership positions, for positions such as teacher governor. This would help in order to send a positive message to pupils, parents and others. The NUT sought to assist black members into leadership positions through its CPD programme and joint work with the National College.
- There was a need for black members to be involved actively in the Union, including in order to address concerns regarding structural issues related to black teachers, such as the relatively high proportion of capability and disciplinary proceedings brought against black teachers.
- The NUT needed to continue to campaign for the protection of funding for the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG) both in order to ensure that local need could be met and to support individual teachers and EMAG posts which were threatened by funding cuts.
- Effective schemes for the teaching of subjects such as the abolition of the slave trade, including the Union’s own materials, should be promoted as widely as possible. Concern was expressed that such topics could sometimes be seen as ‘controversial’ and taught inappropriately.
- Concern was expressed that some black teachers had been the target of negative or derogatory comments through social networking websites. There was a need for school policies on bullying, including ‘cyberbullying’ and racism, to be robust and enforced, and for schools to have a culture which did not tolerate racism but rather fostered an environment of respect, unity and diversity. It was emphasised that individual occurrences should be taken up by the Union through Regional Offices, and if necessary, through legal proceedings.
- It was important within the Union to recognise that some teachers and some pupils could face multiple discrimination. It was noted that the Union collected equality data in a range of areas in order to be able to gain a rounded view of its membership and the individual circumstances of members as far as possible. It was noted that the Equality Act recognised multiple forms of discrimination.
A motion concerned with racist abuse and discriminatory practice was debated, amended and carried. The final wording of the motion, which was carried at Annual Conference 2012, can be read here.
Workshops focussed on work-life balance, classroom management, writing motions, dealing with challenging situations, equalities training and the teaching of migration and settlement in Oldham and were variously described as “thought provoking”, “empowering” and “outstanding”. Further information on the workshops can be found here.
Matarr Baldeh from the Education For All Network (EFANET) spoke of the educational challenges in The Gambia. He explained that, in 2010, there were more girls than boys in school for the first time but most girls do not complete their education. He described how 90% of children with special educational needs are not in school and outlined the research that has been funded by EFANET, VSO and the NUT to explore the challenges and issues facing unqualified teachers.
Baljeet Ghale spoke of her journey to becoming assistant head of a large, successful London comprehensive and the first black president of the National Union of Teachers in 2007. She talked of the challenges she had faced as she sought to develop her teaching career, and the need for black teachers to be involved in the Union. She also criticised analyses of the ‘ghettoisation’ of inner city schools with diverse pupil populations, which she felt suggested that schools with a majority of black students represent a ‘problem’.
Samidha Garg, the Principal Office for Race Equality, gave closing remarks, noting that she had attended every one of the conferences since its inception and the twentieth anniversary had presented an opportunity for celebration and reflection. She acknowledged delegates who were attending for the first time and thanked the steering group for their commitment to organising the conference.
As well as the business of the conference, there were many opportunities for delegates to network and socialise including a team quiz, a disco and a firework display
The Black Teachers’ Conference 2012 will be held on 9 -11 November at Stoke Rochford Hall.