Pupils Kicking out at Racism

Article excerpt

Byline: By Amanda Crooke

Pupils at Richard Avenue Primary say their workshop with Gary Bennett and Kieron Brady was the best lesson they've ever had.

The nine-year-olds can't believe their luck ( swapping their maths books for a coaching session with one of their team's longest-serving players.

Sarah Soyei hopes that while the players pass on some new dribbling skills, their tough stance on racism will also rub off.

As North East schools worker for Show Racism the Red Card, she has taken this workshop to more than 1,000 children in Sunderland teaching them what racism is, about refugees and asylum seekers.

The project has proved hugely popular in schools and Sarah is currently talking to South Tyneside and Durham councils about expanding the scheme.

They hope to find some ex-Newcastle players to start the same scheme in the city.

Nine-year-old Tom Hutchinson said: "It was a really good session. I learned not to call people because of their religion or colour.

"I learned that the best way to stop racism is to tell a teacher or your parents if you see or hear about it."

Teacher Alison Atkinson said: "The children loved it. They really enjoyed learning the football skills with Gary. They kept saying how lucky they were to be taught by a professional.

"The workshop was very good too. It concentrated on all kinds of differences ( down to hair colour ( and then on tolerance.

"This is a very diverse school so the message of the workshop was particularly relevant here but I would recommend it to any teacher.

"They dealt with some very sensitive issues in an informative way and the children were transfixed for the whole session."

Sarah Soyei said: "The primary schoolchildren especially are still influenced a lot by their parents, teacher and friends. They haven't really made up their own minds about lots of issues yet.

"It is the perfect time to get them thinking about racism and the problems it causes so they can make a conscious decision based on an informed opinion."

The workshops start with Kieron who retired from Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland with an injury in 1993, explaining what racism is, what it means to be an asylum seeker or refugee.

The class then talk through what forms racism can take, where racist ideas come from and what can be done about racism.

Gary, who was one of the North East's first black footballers, then runs coaching sessions with the kids before they both lead a question and answer session. …