Principal at a Wellingborough school used racist term in meeting

An education director for a trust which runs a number of schools in the county has been reprimanded for using a racist term in a meeting.

Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 5:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 11:13 am
Philip Cantwell

And a freelance education adviser says his initial complaint about the incident was not investigated properly.

Director of education of the London-based academy chain Creative Education Trust (CET) Philip Cantwell was found by a panel of CET trustees to have used the racist n-word at a meeting at Weavers Academy in Wellingborough where he is executive principal.

After using the word Mr Cantwell, a former headteacher at Malcolm Arnold Academy, Northampton, then reportedly joked and laughed.

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Martin Titchmarsh, a freelance education adviser, was present at the meeting and complained about Mr Cantwell’s behaviour to CET chief executive Marc Jordan.

Mr Titchmarsh says Mr Jordan would not accept that the word n-word was racist, and did not then follow CET’s whistleblowing policy that whistleblowers should not be victimised.

It was only after he wrote directly to trustees that an inquiry panel was set up, says Mr Titchmarsh.

Mr Titchmarsh had worked for CET for three years but, after reporting the matter, says he was offered no further work by CET.

He said: “An incident like this gets to the heart of the values, or lack of them, of an organisation.

“I worked in schools as a teacher and headteacher for 37 years and I never heard any member of staff use the n-word.

“Schools pride themselves on encouraging diversity and tackling racism.

“Students, parents and staff of CET academies will be shocked that a senior officer of an academy trust could use this racist language and then believe it is amusing.

“They would also find it unacceptable that to compound this matter the chief executive would not recognise that the term was racist, attempted to minimise the matter, did not take appropriate action and then tried to gag me.

“He has lain CET open to the charge that, by not tackling racism, CET condones racism.

“His and Mr Cantwell’s actions have exposed a malaise at the most senior level of the trust.

“I understand that Mr Cantwell has now expressed his ‘deep regret’ about his use of this offensive word.

“Mr Jordan, it appears, has entered if not the 21st century, at least the second half of the 20th century and now recognises that the word is a racist term.”

A CET spokesman said: “Creative Education Trust is dedicated to increasing the educational achievement and life chances of its students.

“It prides itself on diversity and recognises that there is no place for racist language under any circumstances.

“We are committed to promoting a culture of tolerance and respect throughout the trust and its schools.

“We and the member of staff concerned deeply regret that an offensive and unacceptable racist term was used in a meeting on June 3, 2015.

“The matter was brought to the attention of the trust’s CEO, who reprimanded the employee concerned.

“It was thought the matter was closed until a formal complaint was received six months later.

“As soon as a formal complaint was made in January this year, an internal investigation was carried out by a panel of trustees.

“The complaint regarding the use of racist language was upheld.

“The panel could find no evidence to support the complainant’s claim that he had been denied work as a consequence of his complaint.

“The panel’s findings were accepted by the complainant in writing and without invoking the right of appeal.

“We are committed to upholding a culture of tolerance and are awaiting a review of our procedures, including recommendations to ensure staff are fully aware of diversity issues, which will be presented by the complaints panel to the board of trustees shortly.”

The CET runs 13 schools including Abbeyfield School, Northampton; Queen Eleanor Primary School, Northampton; and Weavers Academy, Wellingborough.