Islamaphobia on the rise in schools, teachers warn

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The Independent Online

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Torquay said that many Muslims felt under increasing pressure from racial intolerance. They also warned that groups such as the British National Party and the National Front had been exploiting the tensions and spreading a message of racial hatred.

"We note that such fascist and racist organisations have announced their intention to stand in seats across the country in order to profit from such an atmosphere," the union said.

The union claimed that the Government's "war on terror" and its aim to be "tough but fair" on immigration had also fuelled a climate of intimidation towards asylum-seekers and political refugees.

Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the NUT, said the union had had increased incidents of name-calling against Muslim students reported to it.

"There have been other instances of a more extreme nature where people have been attacked or spat at because they may appear to be Muslim," he added.

The union has issued guidelines to all members insisting they should tackle racial incidents in schools and make it clear that there is no excuse for racist behaviour.

Dennis Gibbons, from Leeds, moving a motion urging more schools to adopt racial equality policies, said: "Islamaphobia has been increasing in schools since the London bombings of last July." He added there had also been a rise in support for the BNP which, he said, was "a very worrying trend".

Teachers had seen some of the good work they had done in combating racism being affected, he said.

Mr Sinnott said that, as well as a rise in Islamaphobia, the union had also detected an increase in anti-Semitism in schools and that it was essential that all forms of racism should be opposed.

Delegates also warned of discrimination in teachers' salary levels against members of ethnic minority groups.

Jerry Glazier, the union's executive member for Essex, said that, whereas 95.8 per cent of all British white teachers were awarded merit rises when they reached the top of the teachers' pay scale, the figures for Bangladeshi, black African and other Asian teachers were 87, 79 and 80.2 per cent respectively.

He warned that it would be "unlawful" to discriminate against ethnic minority groups on pay.

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