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Gay group’s praise for Newham College despite homophobic rant teacher ‘bizarre’, says Peter Tatchell

12:13 17 January 2014

Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell

Archant

EXCLUSIVE: The decision to include Newham College on a list of 100 “gay-friendly” employers despite a homophobic rant made by a department head was criticised yesterday by Peter Tatchell.

The human rights campaigner, who has been following events at the college for a year, said gay rights group Stonewall’s praise for Newham College was “bizarre” given its clear failings in this case.

Head of performing arts Mark Walcott was fired in December after a recording from 2012 of him making homophobic remarks was posted online by staff members who felt a year-long college inquiry into the speech had gone nowhere.

The college’s principal, Denise Brown, who headed the inquiry, stepped down a week later.

Speaking to the Recorder, Mr Tatchell said: “It is bizarre that Newham College has remained on Stonewall’s workplace equality index, given Mark Walcott’s sustained homophobic outburst and the fact that the college took no action against him for over a year.

“The college only took action after the whole episode was exposed in the national media.”

He added: “I am sure there are some good staff doing good things at the college.

“However, the college administration clearly failed to take proper steps to address a serious homophobic incident when it was first drawn to their attention.”

Stonewall has defended its keeping the college on its Top 100 Workplace Equality Index 2014, calling the teacher’s remarks an “isolated incident” and praising the college’s work on gay equality.

In the 50 minute recording, posted online in November 2013, Mr Walcott is heard to say: “Boys are becoming gay not because they have a gay gene but because they have gay teachers who are indoctrinating them with their gay mentality.”

He is also heard claiming he has asked gay teachers to leave schools, and that their sexuality can stop them doing their jobs properly.

Simon Feeke, Stonewall’s head of workplace programmes, said Newham College has a strong commitment to gay equality “right from the top”.

He said: “Dr Walcott’s comments were absolutely reprehensible. But one individual’s homophobia shouldn’t detract from the fantastic work that many individuals are doing at Newham College to support gay staff and students.”

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