15/06/20

A headteacher of a primary school in Sheffield says he has been ‘overwhelmed by support’ following his drive to end structural racism in schools.

Headteacher Robbie McGrath of Malin Bridge Primary School, announced a pledge to ‘end white supremacy’ after the death of black rights campaigner George Floyd in the US on May 25th.

After witnessing the shocking video that made its way quickly around the internet, Mr. McGrath said he was motivated to play his part and decided to have an “open and honest” conversation with students about white privilege.

Soon after, he was inundated with emails and messages from parents, expressing their support and echoing his mission.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “Our private WhatsApp parents’ groups have been filled with positive messages. People have shown the letter to their bosses, and to their staff.

He went on to explain that racism is not just ongoing in America, but is present in the UK too.

“It is too easy to look at America and dismiss the issues because our police officers do not carry guns,” McGrath said. “The root cause is the same both in the USA and the UK. Our society is built upon white supremacy.

“White supremacy is much subtler than [images of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis]. In many instances it is the unidentified bias that sits within the majority of us that white people are superior to people of colour.”

The headteacher originally sent an email to his staff talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, only to find how few of them had heard of George Floyd. It was then that he decided to involve the wider school community by writing a letter to parents and guardians.

“It occurred to me that a lot of white people would be confused by what was happening in America, and the silent complicity was getting to me,” he said.

“I’d already done the reading, and so I just drafted it. I should probably have checked with the governors, but I knew that everything I was writing was true.”

Black Lives Matter Letter

If we are going to move forward, it is white people who are going to have to take the leading role.

Robbie McGrathHeadteacher

Helen Berry, mother of a year 2 student at the outstanding-rated school, said: “I am very impressed by Mr. McGrath. It’s how he’s put his words into actions. He is well respected in our community and people will listen. It inspired me to learn more and think more about my role, how we can all step up in some way.”

The letter has had impacts reaching far beyond the school community, with many of the students’ parents forwarding it on to family and friends, and sharing it on social media. Even a local pub decided to adopt an anti-racist stance.

“When I sent [my mates] the letter, they said it was a hard read, and they had a tough period of reflection,” said McGrath.

“But they sent it on to friends and work colleagues. One of my best friends, who is white, and had the least privileged upbringing of anyone I know, runs a pub nearby. He sent out the letter on his Twitter feed and to his staff. He says he wants his pub to be anti-racist.”

He added: “If we are going to move forward, it is white people who are going to have to take the leading role because they are the ones who hold the power. There is no quick fix.”