Legislation needed to stop one ethnicity taking over a school, says head

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

A Bradford superhead has said that legislation is needed to stop one ethnicity taking over schools, writes The Telegraph.

Sir Nick Weller, the executive principal at Dixons Academies which runs a chain of schools in the west Yorkshire city, said that introducing a new law is the “only answer” to prevent children being segregated along ethnic lines.

He said that it is “unhealthy” for a city like Bradford to have two communities living “separate lives” and for the children to be educated at different schools.

“I think it’s unhealthy in a city like Bradford for two communities to live separate lives, which by and large they do,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“You could say Bradford is almost two communities: the Muslim community and the white community.”

Mr Weller  said that rather than sending  children to the closest school, parents prefer to send them further away to a school where the majority of children are from the same ethnic background.

“Families will ignore the school that is nearest them because it is predominantly of one – the wrong ethnic group – and they will send them a little bit further down the road to a school where they feel more comfortable,” said  Mr Weller, who was knighted in 2015 for his services to education.

Asked if there was a “tipping point” where the proportion of one community becomes for high in a school that others are deterred from sending their children there, he said: “I think once you get to sort of 70 to 80%, once you get that, then yes.”

He said that brining in new legislation to prevent the dominance of one ethnic group at a school would be the “only answer”, but added that the legal implications of doing so would be “very high”.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination in employment or in the provision of training and education on the grounds on race and religion.  Discrimination based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, sex, and sexual orientation are also barred.

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I think it’s unhealthy in a city like Bradford for two communities to live separate lives, which by and large they doSir Nick Weller

Mr Weller said that religious education lessons is an important opportunity for pupils to learn about other cultures – but criticised a “cop out” which allows parents to withdraw their children from the classes.

“Personally, I believe that both of those opt outs should be withdrawn,” he said.

“With religious education, that’s about learning about different cultures and traditions. That is what we as a group are all about.”

There are currently rules in place to force over-subscribed faith schools to admit 50% of its pupils from different faiths.

The Conservative Party said in its manifesto that it will scrap the 50% faith admissions cap. However, no such guidelines exist for state schools where the majority of students come from a particular ethnic background.

In the early 1980s, Bradford headteacher Ray Honeyford provoked controversy by publishing an article critical of multiculturalism and its effect on British education.

Honeyford had been headmaster of Drummond Middle School, where some 95% of the pupils were Asian, for four years when he wrote his article for the Right-wing Salisbury Review.

Local politicians and pressure groups responded with a campaign to get him fired and he received death threats. He had to enter his own school under police protection owing to the presence of pickets, and took early retirement in 1985.

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