Ray Honeyford: Headmaster who sparked controversy with an attack on multiculturalism

 

Ray Honeyford, the head teacher of a Bradford inner-city school, sparked national controversy in 1984 when he questioned multiculturalism in schools.

He was abused, suspended, reinstated and eventually hounded out of education. Headmaster at Drummond Middle School for four years, where more than 90 per cent of pupils were Asian, the mild-mannered and popular Honeyford devoted his career to the education of disadvantaged children, a background he knew well and one reason why he had such a passion for education as a force for social mobility. It was a measure of his success that the school was heavily oversubscribed, with the greatest demand for places coming from Muslim parents.

However, in January 1984, Honeyford wrote an article for the right-wing Salisbury Review in which he criticised multiculturalism, the doctrine that had held sway in state education since the 1970s. Ethnic-minority children were encouraged to cling on to their cultures, customs, even languages, while the concept of a shared British identity was treated with contempt. Honeyford thought this approach deeply damaging, and his article turned him into a figure both of hatred and hero-worship.

He argued that there was "a growing number of Asians whose aim is to preserve the values and attitudes of the Indian subcontinent within a framework of British social and political privilege, i.e. to produce Asian ghettos". He also criticised "an influential group of black intellectuals of aggressive disposition, who know little of the British traditions of understatement, civilised discourse and respect for reason".

He was particularly keen that all children should be taught English as their first language from a young age, writing, "Those of us working in Asian areas are encouraged, officially, to 'celebrate linguistic diversity', i.e. applaud the rapidly mounting linguistic confusion in those growing number of inner-city schools in which British-born Asian children begin their mastery of English by being taught in Urdu."

Honeyford also cast doubt on whether his pupils were best served by the local educational authority allowing such practices as the withdrawal of children from school for months at a time in order to go "home" to Pakistan on the grounds that this was appropriate to the children's native culture.

Anticipating that he might be accused of racism, he added, "It is the icon word of those committed to the race game. And they apply it with the same sort of mindless zeal as the inquisitors voiced 'heretic' or Senator McCarthy spat out 'Commie'."

Initially, the article went unnoticed, but it was then picked up by the national press. Bradford's then Labour Mayor, Mohammed Ajeeb, called for Honeyford's dismissal for demonstrating "prejudice against certain sections of our community". Following death threats, picket lines and torrents of abuse, Honeyford was given police protection to and from school. Pupils were given badges proclaiming "Hate Your Headmaster" along with a "Pupils' Charter" advocating open disobedience. Although supported by some within the Asian community, Honeyford found himself mostly alone, as many feared reprisals for openly supporting him.

In April 1985 he was suspended, then reinstated in September after an appeal to the High Court. This proved short-lived as some parents formed an action group, organising demonstrations and keeping their children away from school. That December Honeyford agreed to early retirement and a lump sum of £160,000.

The outcome left him bemused and angered, though he gained some small satisfaction in 2004 when Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, asserted that children needed to be given "a core of Britishness". Multiculturalism, he argued, suggested "separateness". He warned that "some districts are on their way to becoming fully fledged ghettos – black holes into which no one goes without fear or trepidation."

In words reminiscent of Honeyford's, albeit more delicately put, Phillips said that Britain "is sleep-walking into segregation ... For instance, I hate the way this country has lost Shakespeare. That sort of thing is bad for immigrants." The irony was not lost on Honeyford, who wrote in the Daily Mail, "He is lauded for his wisdom. I was sacked for my alleged racism." Some have argued that Honeyford was equally justified in his warning about Muslim separatism, which has dramatically increased since his article, as seen in the growth of Muslim faith schools and the informal official acceptance of sharia courts.

Born in Manchester in 1934, Raymond Honeyford was one of 11 children, six of whom died in childhood, in an Anglo-Irish working-class family. His father, a labourer, was wounded in the First World War and worked only intermittently thereafter. The Honeyfords lived in a terraced house with an outside toilet and no hot water.

Having failed his 11+, Honeyford attended Manchester Technical School until the age of 15, when he left for an office job in order to to support his family. He attended night school to train as a teacher and later completed an MA in Linguistics at Lancaster University. He went on to teach at a number of secondary schools in the Manchester area before becoming headmaster of Drummond Middle School in 1981.

Following his dismissal, with his career and reputation in ruins, Honeyford never returned to teaching. He dabbled in political journalism and gave talks, and served on the education panel of the Centre for Policy Studies, where he won respect for his integrity and passion; he also served for three years as a Conservative councillor in Bury.

Raymond Honeyford, teacher: born Manchester 24 February 1934; married firstly (marriage dissolved, two sons), 1982 Angela; died Bury 5 February 2012.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape