A LABOUR councillor has criticised the secrecy over “racially divisive” training in schools which is being promoted by Brighton and Hove City Council.

The council has given its support for the use of critical race theory, prompting more than 4,000 people to sign a petition that was presented at Hove Town Hall on Monday.

The petition, presented by former teacher Adrian Hart, criticises the use of Critical Race Theory, or CRT, saying it could place the council and schools in breach of equalities law.

The same point has been made by the government’s equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, a former Sussex University student, who gave a similar warning in the House of Commons.

Mr Hart told the council’s children, young people and skills committee that critical race theory had been “smuggled” into schools without parents’ consent and without councillors’ informed consent.

He had asked to see the teaching materials being used as part of the council's anti-racist schools strategy, but says his Freedom of Information request was refused because it was “commercially sensitive”.

The Argus: The council was asked under a Freedom of Information request from Brighton community activist Adrian Hart to show the curriculumThe council was asked under a Freedom of Information request from Brighton community activist Adrian Hart to show the curriculum

Mr Hart, author of the Myth of Racist Kids, told councillors: “From December 2020, the council began to promote ‘racial literacy’ staff training to schools.

“The strategy simply states ‘anti-racism practices’ will be ‘embedded in the Brighton and Hove school system over a five-year timeframe’.

“I suspect the fact that this training operates a CRT approach was unknown to you when you agreed to it.

“Given that the policy targets children, it is deeply troubling that CRT’s role in it was never explained to you.

“Prior to agreeing the policy, you were denied the opportunity to scrutinise CRT and assess how it shapes a strategy clearly impacting the daily lives of pupils.

“For this reason alone, you must call a moratorium on the anti-racist schools strategy and urgently review it.

“CRT is a set of beliefs about society – not facts. Its message to children is that they are either the bearers or the victims of ‘white privilege’.

“If you had known of the controversies surrounding CRT, you would have had reason to investigate if the strategy breaches the ‘public sector equalities duty’ by fostering divisions among children.

“Take one example: the strategy document proposes ‘racial literacy’ for pupils via focused lessons and justifies this by mocking the vast majority of parents who regard young children as indifferent to colour.

“This is shocking. In playgrounds across 21st century Britain, kids model a version of multicultural, multi-ethnic co-operation and friendship that could teach the adult world a thing or two.

“Yet the strategy seeks to overturn and racialise children’s indifference to skin colour differences.

“Parents of young children expect schools to uphold safeguarding duties. They expect councils to risk-assess potentially harmful interventions.

“They trust that schools and councils will not introduce a belief system and teach it as fact.

“I cannot believe that it was the intention of this committee to let that happen.”

The hearing was told how training material has been provided by an independent business, employed outside the city council, however it is up to schools to decide what materials they use.

Mr Hart has been trying to access these training materials, raising the issue with a number of different council committees, with his request being refused on the grounds of commercial sensitivities.

The Argus: Jackie O'Quinn called for the information to be made publicJackie O'Quinn called for the information to be made public

Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn said: “There is some concern among some councillors that we have not been allowed to access this critical race theory – that we are not allowed to see the content of it.

“Our feeling is that it should be transparent. We represent residents in the city and obviously that includes parents.

“We should be able to see this material. It should actually be available to us and parents as well.

“It’s a very important issue. We are deeply committed to it.

"But we do feel that it must be democratic and transparent – and it’s very, very important to have that.

“It is controversial. It is a controversial programme so it’s even more reason that we should have some access to it.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever heard ‘commercially sensitive’ regarding information or stuff being used in schools ever before so I find that deeply worrying as well."

The committee voted six councillors to four in favour of a report about the subject – due in March – and for councillors to see the teaching materials in question. The committee also agreed to note the petition.

Conservative councillor Alistair McNair added: “I support what Cllr O’Quinn has said and I agree with Mr Hart as well.

“We should be deeply concerned that the council is using very contentious and divisive philosophies to influence its guidance to schools such as CRT.

“Of course, racism is still very much a real issue unfortunately but words such as ‘systemic racism’ and ‘white privilege’ are inappropriate.

“Training is not education. Training means making people think in a certain way and the council should not be in the business of making our children think in a certain way especially on something so contentious.”

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