A woman who was the only black teacher at Alton College has been awarded nearly £70,000 by an employment tribunal after being told she was not doing enough to promote equality and diversity.
When Botswana-born Betty Knight, a 54-year-old British citizen, challenged this assessment of her creative writing class by virtue of her mere presence in the predominantly white college, one of the two white examiners complained about her in an email to the other.
The incident occurred in December 2019 when examiners Claire Scott and Stephanie Richardson made a 25-minute observation of her teaching.
They left Mrs Knight “stunned and demoralised” by downgrading her in all categories – including giving her the lowest possible score for ‘equality and diversity’.
When Mrs Knight disputed the feedback, Ms Scott, a senior learning manager, said in the email to Ms Richardson: “Unfortunately she is now throwing the E & D Black comment at me too.”
The comments in the assessment of Mrs Knight included that she had no “ethnic resources”. She resigned in 2021 and has not taught since.
The compensation awarded at the tribunal was for “injury to feelings” and lost earnings. The college was also ordered to write a letter of apology to Mrs Knight and to write to staff explaining it had racially harassed her.
In an interview with The Times, Mrs Knight said: “I thought what the hell are ethnic resources? A lot of students went on to university because of the help I gave them.
“When they go on to become managers and professionals and a black person is asking them for a job, I like to think they will just see a human being, because a black teacher helped them to get to that position. For me, that is how I help to fight racism, not equality and diversity box-ticking.”
Havant and South Downs College, of which Alton College is a part, said it accepted the tribunal’s finding that the email “amounted to harassment, related to race”.
It added in a statement: “We wish to apologise to Ms Knight for that act and any distress caused. The college values its employees highly, and always endeavours to treat them fairly and equitably. The college acknowledges the final judgement of this case and will learn from it in its continuing journey of creating a fully inclusive workplace.
“The college endeavours to ensure the work environment is free from harassment, victimisation, discrimination and bullying, and that everyone – staff, students and the communities we serve – are treated with dignity and respect.”