The Lessons Of Ray Honeyford

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20140901

Aasmah Mir revisits the 'Honeyford Affair', the heated dispute surrounding Ray Honeyford, a Bradford headteacher whose outspoken criticisms of multiculturalism caused a national controversy.

Ray Honeyford was headmaster of Drummond Middle School in Bradford, a school with a largely British-Asian intake. He had been writing publicly about his disagreement with multicultural education policies for a couple of years when, in spring 1984, one of his articles was reprinted in a local paper. It sparked a widespread outcry.

Outraged parents formed an action group, with large-scale protests taking place outside the school. Scores of pupils ceased to attend lessons. Honeyford was suspended, then reinstated on appeal. Again, parents withdrew their children. The protests were heated and persistent.

The Honeyford Affair went on for nearly two years. Eventually Ray Honeyford took early retirement. He never worked as a teacher again.

Honeyford was admired on the one hand and reviled on the other. For some he was a racist, malignly out of step with his community; for others he was a prophet and a martyr. For some it was an issue of free speech; for others the simple responsibility of an employee to implement the policies of their employer.

But what does the Honeyford Affair have to tell us today? Have we moved on in our discussions of multiculturalism and education? And how has time changed the views of those involved?

Aasmah Mir talks to those closest to the issue: Honeyford's deputy head; parents and governors; his replacement as Head of Drummond Middle School; Bradford's Race Relations Officer of the day and Eric Pickles MP, who as Chair of Bradford's Education Committee at the time, was intimately involved with the long-running controversy.

Producer: Martin Williams.