Is racial segregation creeping into British schools?

Is racial segregation creeping into British schools? That’s the disturbing claim from increasing numbers of teachers and parents, who say the importing from America of Critical Race Theory is teaching seven-year-olds they’re racist

  • Coldfall Primary School, London, excluded white kids from black history lesson

Nick Miller paints a disturbing picture of the state of race relations in British schools.

‘The ‘anti-racism’ movement started off very small and no one heard about it for a couple of years,’ he told the Mail this week. 

‘But now they’ve upped the ante. If they start offering classes to black children only, then soon we could be looking at black-only days out, black-only lunch sittings or white children standing up in class to admit their ‘guilt’. 

All of this stuff is already happening in the U.S., Australia and Canada — and that’s what we’re heading for.’

Racial segregation in British schools might sound unthinkable. Yet as Mr Miller knows, it has already begun.

Nick Miller paints a disturbing picture of the state of race relations in British schools

Earlier this month, the father-of-two received a WhatsApp message from the primary school in leafy Muswell Hill, North London, that his child attends.

Sent by the ‘inclusion and anti-racism group’ at Coldfall Primary School to all Year 4 parents, it invited ‘black and black-heritage children’ to join two-hour online sessions every Saturday morning. 

The message explained: ‘The aim is to accelerate progress in reading and writing whilst also developing the children’s knowledge of black history and culture.’

The 33-lesson course, which cost the school £400 per child (aged eight or nine), was provided by an outside organisation. White children were excluded — whatever their interest in black history and culture.

In 1963, Martin Luther King said: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.’

Yet 60 years on, it seems the colour of a child’s skin matters more than ever.

The 33-lesson course, which cost the school £400 per child (aged eight or nine), was provided by an outside organisation. White children were excluded — whatever their interest in black history and culture. Pictured: Coldfall Primary School

How has the ‘anti-racism’ movement reached such a stage in Britain that schools, in a sinister development, are dividing children according to their ethnic background and giving one group seemingly preferential treatment?

The answer lies in the expanding influence of a controversial doctrine taking hold in public life: so-called ‘Critical Race Theory’.

First developed in the 1970s by a civil rights lawyer turned Harvard law professor, Derrick Bell, Critical Race Theory is founded on the idea that racism is systemic in national institutions, and that these institutions serve to ensure white people remain dominant in society. 

Despite originating in America, Critical Race Theory has found increasing influence in Britain thanks to political-activist groups.

It gained new traction following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Since that event, and the subsequent protests, riots and rise of Black Lives Matter, an increasing number of British schools — as well as companies, public bodies, universities and other organisations — are now adopting ‘anti-racist’ policies, many influenced by Critical Race Theory.

It gained new traction following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis

These can include terms such as ‘white privilege’ — the claim white people benefit in society simply from being white — and that being ‘colour-blind’, the belief that all people should be treated equally regardless of race, is ‘not an option’.

Such concepts have proven highly controversial in both the U.S. and the UK, with critics arguing that they are divisive and deeply politicised theories that should not be presented as fact, particularly to children.

Many question how relevant Critical Race Theory is to the British experience, given that it was developed in response to racial inequalities in U.S. society. Nevertheless, it has been taken up enthusiastically by many educational bodies.

Just this week, the campaign group Don’t Divide Us published a paper examining the teaching materials provided by third-party organisations who operate in schools.

Analysis found that 48 out of 49 of them promoted Critical Race Theory as fact. In turn, these bodies were listed as working with some 135 schools across the country — but the tenets of Critical Race Theory are gaining wider influence across the schools network.

Don’t Divide Us was set up in response to Critical Race Theory’s tightening grip on our education system. The group’s founders include Baroness (Claire) Fox, head of the think-tank Academy of Ideas, and English teacher and academic Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert.

Fox and Sehgal Cuthbert are former members of the Left-wing organisation Workers Against Racism. But they are nevertheless deeply concerned the radical agenda being pursued under the guise of anti-racism is now undermining British race relations.

Don’t Divide Us has said: ‘We reject the proposition that the UK is inherently racist . . . with racial prejudice embedded into our educational, cultural and legal institutions . . .

‘Where racism exists, it should be unapologetically challenged. We oppose those ideologues who seek to irrevocably damage our society by hijacking this important cause.’

This week, Dr Sehgal Cuthbert spoke to the Mail about the findings of the group’s report.

She said the influence of organisations that promote Critical Race Theory in schools ‘now extends way beyond the individual schools they are working with — to the point that they are now reshaping education from the top down. If you’ve got everyone from the Department for Education to exam boards, teaching unions and local authorities, all endorsing this Critical Race Theory-inspired narrative, then the teaching profession is being reshaped.’

While it might be useful to analyse Critical Race Theory, Dr Sehgal Cuthbert explains, it is problematic that such complex ideas are being presented to school children as fact.

‘There’s no discussion around these concepts. It’s basically just: ‘You will believe this or you’re a racist.’

‘These groups are, for instance, asserting that ‘colour-blind’ approaches have failed, although I can’t see where the evidence is for that. Colour-blind approaches have got us from slavery and colonialism to today.

‘So a set of highly partisan political beliefs are being introduced from primary ages, if not nursery ages, in schools that are meant to be helping children develop their faculties to become independent thinkers.’

Baroness Fox, who trained as a teacher, further argues that by presenting political concepts such as ‘white privilege’ as fact, schools are breaching the 1996 Education Act, which dictates that they have a duty to be impartial.

‘You should have a school policy that says the school does not tolerate racism and have an appropriate complaints system,’ she tells the Mail. ‘But what you don’t do is have endless lessons on racism and completely overhaul the curriculum via an ideological group.’

Don’t Divide Us has warned about troubling materials provided to schools by third-party organisations. One such resource, as the Mail reported this week, is a graphic of a ‘white supremacy pyramid’. It claims ‘bias, stereotypes and prejudice can lead to racist words and actions, leading to physical harm and death’ and explains how ‘indifference’ can lead to ‘mass murder’.

The controversial graphic features in an anti-racism manual uploaded online by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich for teachers at Church of England schools to view.

The diocese, led by Bishop Martin Seeley, controls 87 local schools, 85 of which are at primary level for children aged 11 and under.

Such is the prevalence of these materials that, since its foundation in 2020, Don’t Divide Us has received hundreds of complaints from teachers, parents and even grandparents about ‘anti-racism’ teaching in schools.

One mother reported that she’d received an email from her child’s school with the subject line: ‘Black Lives Matter’. Parents were encouraged to form a group to discuss how to ‘broaden’ the curriculum.

That sounded fine, until she then discovered that ‘under the radar’, the school had scheduled a discussion about race and racism that only included parents from ethnic minorities. A ‘curriculum committee’ was later drawn up involving only these non-white parents.

Another parent from London said that their child received schoolwork telling them ‘that the UK is a systemically racist country and that the white children were all privileged because of the colour of their skin.

‘It went on to detail what I have since learnt is Critical Race Theory, before saying it was the responsibility of ‘those with white privilege’, as they call the children, to make amends,’ she said.

And it’s not just in class. Teachers across the country are increasingly disaffected by the way Critical Race Theory is pervading the staff-room, too.

One headteacher told Dr Sehgal Cuthbert he’d been contacted by a parent asking the school not to read the classic Great Depression-era novel Of Mice And Men in lessons because of its use of ‘racial language’. The father made the complaint because he had experienced racism when he was growing up in London in the 1980s.

‘What a shame the father couldn’t get past his memory of being hurt to understand this is a great book,’ Dr Sehgal Cuthbert says. ‘Very few teachers are going to teach a book like that without having a discussion about the language and what it might mean. In a way, it is the perfect opportunity to discuss racism.’

A teacher in Hampshire, who wants to remain anonymous for fear of a backlash, told the Mail his school had arranged a series of activities only students from ethnic minorities were allowed to attend.

Just this week, he said, the school’s management sent an email telling teachers of the meeting planned for ‘Pem’ — People of Ethnic Minority.

The message included the names of all the ‘Pem’ children at the school and staff were strictly informed that only the people named in this list were to be told about the event.

Earlier in the year, the school reportedly held African cooking classes for black students only. Teachers even took black female students on shopping trips to buy make-up suited for darker skin and covered the cost in acknowledgment that these brands were more expensive than the equivalent products for white skin. And this happened despite the fact make-up is banned at the school.

‘It all smacked of segregation,’ says the whistleblowing teacher. ‘At one time in history they were splitting people up by race — this sounds very similar.’

Proponents insist there is no harm in teaching children ‘anti-racism’.

Ibram X Kendi, the American author of the best-selling How To Be An Antiracist, wrote in one British newspaper: ‘The delusion that talking about race puts people into boxes diminishes our ability to explain how racism puts people into unequal boxes. We can’t explain to children the mirage of race — and the realness of racism — by ignoring it.’

Yet a number of educational experts have argued that the feverish focus on race in schools ignores other factors, such as social class, that have a more profound impact on children’s life chances in Britain.

One such expert is Steve Strand, Professor of Education at Oxford University, whose research shows both white British and black Caribbean children from working class backgrounds achieve the lowest GCSE results.

Official data from 2021 found that only 24.5 per cent of poorer white British students and 25.9 per cent of black Caribbean pupils got grade 5 — considered a strong pass — or above in English and Maths GCSE in the academic year of 2020/21, compared with 84.2 per cent of Chinese and 74.2 per cent of Indian children who were not eligible for free school meals.

Professor Strand concluded that he felt uncomfortable with the term ‘white privilege.’

‘Privilege is such a loaded word that I don’t think it’s very helpful,’ he told the Mail. ‘What comes out of my research is that social class is a massive factor in children’s achievements. White and black Caribbean working class kids, both boys and girls, come out at the bottom of the pack. Terms like ‘white privilege’ miss this’.

As controversy surrounding the teaching of Critical Race Theory gains momentum, there appears to be a growing political will from governing institutions to deter schools from embracing it.

In October 2020, the Department for Education’s guidance for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education was updated to state that ‘schools should not use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances.’

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch later took to the despatch box to warn schools they would be breaking the law if they taught ‘elements of Critical Race Theory’.

A parliamentary education Select Committee then issued a report in 2021, concluding that use of the term ‘white privilege’ may ‘alienate’ white working-class students.

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman warned teachers last year they must not be ‘campaigners’ in the classroom. Speaking at the Festival of Education at Wellington College, she said they needed to be ‘expert guides through disputed territory, while maintaining their own impartiality’.

Even so, Mr Miller remains pessimistic about the future.

‘I just feel that we’re going to be completely overwhelmed by this trend,’ he said. ‘As a society we are one of the least racist places on earth. People come to this country, knowing that they’re not going to be treated badly just because of the way they look.

‘We’re not bad people, yet our children are being crushed by this.’