• Education Secretary stonewalls Devon County Council on anti-racist motion

    19th February 2021 | News | Claire
  • The Education Secretary has stonewalled Devon County Council for four months, following my anti-racist motion and Diversity in Devon campaign with four King’s School Students, last year.

    Following the full council meeting on 1 October, when there was agreement to lobby the Secretary of State for Education urging him to address diversity issues more fully in the national curriculum, Education Portfolioholder, Cllr James McInnes wrote to Mr Williamson.

    In his letter, Cllr McInnes urged the government to look again at the national curriculum and do more to address anti-racist sentiment.

    Unfortunately there has been no response, despite several chasers.

    Cllr McInnes’s letter, which praised the Ottery campaigners and spoke of local work taking place on diversity issues, said:

    “… the point of my letter is to ask you if the Government will also take action nationally and urge schools to:

    * Capture the voice of children and young people and their responses to the Black Lives Matter movement.

    * Ensure that the school environment and curriculum allows all students to see themselves reflected and included.

    * Reflect on how they challenge historic and persisting racist ideas and how they celebrate diversity.

    My council believes these actions would certainly help to develop a more understanding and inclusive society that promotes racial equality for everyone.”

    I asked a written question at yesterday’s full council meeting about the silence from the Education Secretary.

    In response to my question, Cllr McInnes said it was “disappointing” – and confirmed that Devon County Council would continue to press the Education Secretary for a response on this very important matter.

    The question (no. 4), the answer (and Cllr McInnes’s letter) – can be viewed in full here

    It’s incredibly disrespectful to ignore local campaigners and Devon County Council on this vital issue, and it is also a worrying sign that ministers are not prioritising addressing tackling anti-racist sentiment, which has been rising throughout the Brexit process and even during the pandemic.

    Hate crimes have increased by two percent in Devon during that time, with more than half of those relating to race.

    Last year, Devon and Cornwall Police launched its own anti-racist campaign, following worrying findings that their own force was not treating people of ethnic minorities fairly and equally, compared with the white population.

    The King’s School campaigners – Sandra, Lizzie, Flo and Anoo – met with East Devon’s MP, Simon Jupp on the issue last year – a meeting which I also attended.  He promised to talk to ministers and get back to us.

    Disappointingly, we have heard nothing from Mr Jupp either.

    Many people believe that the Conservative government is not doing its best for black, asian and minority ethnic people.  Based on this experience alone, I share those views.

    I very much hope we will hear some positive news soon from Mr Williamson and Mr Jupp.

    Pic: Anoo, Flo, Sandra and Lizzie at the start of their campaign, last summer.