Ethnic minority groups condemn Ryelands Primary School lesson in which children lined up 'from lightest to darkest'

Ryelands Primary School

Ryelands Primary School

First published in News
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Croydon Guardian: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Reporter

Ethnic minority groups have joined condemnation of a primary school lesson in which children were ordered to line up according to their skin colour.

Year 6 pupils at Ryelands Primary School, in South Norwood, were told by teaching assistants to organise themselves "from lightest to darkest" during a class last week, allegedly leading to bullying.

Oasis Community Learning, which runs the school, defended the lesson, which it said had been intended to teach children about ethnic diversity.

But some parents branded it "highly inappropriate" and said it had led to one pupil being picked on due to the colour of their skin, while a prominent race relations campaigner has described it as "cack-handed and inept" and called on the school not to repeat the lesson.

The exercise involved about 30 children who were taking a lesson in the school's playground designed to prepare them for secondary school.

One child's mother, who asked not to be named, said: "Parents have told me children laughed at one child because he was 'the blackest' and arguing about who was darker and who was lighter, which is not something that you want to be happening in your school.

"I would be mortified if it was my child.

"I think it is highly inappropriate. Parents have complained but the school did not apologise for it, they tried to explain it away."

Oasis, which took over the running of the Albert Road school last week, said the lesson had been taken by two mixed-race teaching assistants who encouraged children to "talk about differences in a positive way".

A spokesman for the organisation, which sponsors six Croydon schools, said: "Inclusion is our raison d'etre and we are very committed to equality.

In this instance, it was about celebrated differences and saying it is OK to talk about them in a positive way but recognising we are all the same underneath.

"We fully support the teaching assistants that were involved but of course we are always willing to listen to feedback about how we do things in the future."

He added: "Had there been any children making inappropriate comments, they would have been picked up for that immediately."

But Lee Jasper, a race relations campaigner and the Respect Party's former Parliamentary candidate for Croydon North, described the exercise as "a cack-handed and inept way of delivering a very important subject". 

He said: "Of course, one wants to teach children about the nature of multicultural societies and different cultures, but the way in which this lesson was delivered actually resulted in children becoming a target for bullying and harassment.

"While well-intended, it has caused no little distress and I think the school needs to rethink its lesson plan on an inclusive multicultural democracy and have a much more considered approach to providing these important citizenship lessons to youngsters.

"It caused more damage than the good it was intended to do. To that extent, I think the school has to have pause to reflect about make sure they get it right for the following term and the remainder of the academic year."

Croydon Guardian: Lee Jasper speaking at the launch of Harrow Black History season

Lee Jasper, who stood for Respect in the 2012 Croydon North

Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of Croydon Black and Ethnic Minority Forum, said there were "more sensible ways of teaching children about diversity". 

He added: "What is reported to have transpired in terms of young pupils being picked on is likely to come out of this blunt approach.

"Whilst we accept that the school would want to promote diversity and address those sort of issues, there could be more appropriate ways to do so.

"There are risks attached to this sort of gimmicky approach. I can't see the benefit of asking them to line up. And then what? What is the issue? Is it just pointing out that there are different shades?

"Inevitably it would inspire laughter and derision instead of learning about diversity."

He added: "It is not an approach I have ever heard of. It is quite extraordinary where they have got that idea from."

Ofsted last month branded Ryelands inadequate following an inspection in February, with teaching, pupil achievement and leadership and management all awarded the worst possible rating.


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Comments (9)

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12:49pm Wed 7 May 14

alroutemaster says...

Good job Michael Jackson wasn't a pupil here, he wouldn't have known where to stand.......
Good job Michael Jackson wasn't a pupil here, he wouldn't have known where to stand....... alroutemaster
  • Score: 11

2:04pm Wed 7 May 14

Dani78 says...

such a shame this was my old primary school... bring Mr and Mrs Ingram they knew how to run a decent school..
such a shame this was my old primary school... bring Mr and Mrs Ingram they knew how to run a decent school.. Dani78
  • Score: 2

9:04pm Wed 7 May 14

Crease2000 says...

It's always nice to have a reminder of last weeks news.
It's always nice to have a reminder of last weeks news. Crease2000
  • Score: 3

9:54pm Wed 7 May 14

alroutemaster says...

Crease2000: The touchy minorities are still climbing up the slippery slope, so they have to repeat it every week.......
Crease2000: The touchy minorities are still climbing up the slippery slope, so they have to repeat it every week....... alroutemaster
  • Score: 1

1:07pm Thu 8 May 14

rivacrelad says...

If ethnic people don't like the way we run schools in England why don't they go back to their ancestral countries. Just a thought. Flame away folks.
If ethnic people don't like the way we run schools in England why don't they go back to their ancestral countries. Just a thought. Flame away folks. rivacrelad
  • Score: -2

3:34pm Thu 8 May 14

Moominmumma says...

Notice how it was teaching assistants left to run the class. Less qualified and lower paid. Where was the teacher?
Notice how it was teaching assistants left to run the class. Less qualified and lower paid. Where was the teacher? Moominmumma
  • Score: 2

10:14am Fri 9 May 14

tigermum2 says...

I can't believe that this actually happened! Oasis Academy allowed and supported this practice by unqualified teaching assistants regarding multiculturalism. Aspects like this need to be handled with sensitively and maturely and with experienced qualifed teachers who lead the class. I have never heard of this practice in any part of UK and it confirms that Oasis is an organisation which has no business in education at all. If this is a snapshot of education under academies everyone needs to wake up and smell the coffee.
I can't believe that this actually happened! Oasis Academy allowed and supported this practice by unqualified teaching assistants regarding multiculturalism. Aspects like this need to be handled with sensitively and maturely and with experienced qualifed teachers who lead the class. I have never heard of this practice in any part of UK and it confirms that Oasis is an organisation which has no business in education at all. If this is a snapshot of education under academies everyone needs to wake up and smell the coffee. tigermum2
  • Score: -6

10:42am Fri 9 May 14

tigermum2 says...

I can’t believe this has happened! I mean are we in 2014 and in multicultural Britain? Oasis Academy allowed and it supported these unqualified teaching assistants to lead the class without any direction of a qualified experienced teacher, about a matter that requires great sensitivity and maturity. If this was a matter regarding say the ‘Holocaust’, ‘Disability’ or ‘Sexual Education’ how would they handle this? This incident is quiet disturbing and has highlighted the fact that Oasis as an organisation has no business of being in education and if this is an indication of how academies are run on a dumbed down level, we all need to wake up and smell the coffee or else we will be sleepwalking into an education disaster!
I can’t believe this has happened! I mean are we in 2014 and in multicultural Britain? Oasis Academy allowed and it supported these unqualified teaching assistants to lead the class without any direction of a qualified experienced teacher, about a matter that requires great sensitivity and maturity. If this was a matter regarding say the ‘Holocaust’, ‘Disability’ or ‘Sexual Education’ how would they handle this? This incident is quiet disturbing and has highlighted the fact that Oasis as an organisation has no business of being in education and if this is an indication of how academies are run on a dumbed down level, we all need to wake up and smell the coffee or else we will be sleepwalking into an education disaster! tigermum2
  • Score: -6

2:20pm Mon 12 May 14

Angela M says...

What's the big deal? When I was at school we once were lined up in order of height and hair colour - and as part of the lesson we looked at the variety of eye colours etc within our group. We even counted moles! It's designed to teach children to embrace different appearances. Incidentally, I was the shortest in class.

What concerns me is that the exercise led to 'bullying'. That says a lot about the children's attitudes to race, and clearly THAT is the problem that needs to be addressed. There should be more exercises like this, not fewer.
What's the big deal? When I was at school we once were lined up in order of height and hair colour - and as part of the lesson we looked at the variety of eye colours etc within our group. We even counted moles! It's designed to teach children to embrace different appearances. Incidentally, I was the shortest in class. What concerns me is that the exercise led to 'bullying'. That says a lot about the children's attitudes to race, and clearly THAT is the problem that needs to be addressed. There should be more exercises like this, not fewer. Angela M
  • Score: 2

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