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Offensive word used by teacher

(43 Posts)
UpTree Fri 18-Jan-19 07:57:44

I’m wondering what to do in this situation (although I think I know what you’ll all say)

I’m a trainee teacher in secondary and started my placement two days ago, so I’m very new to the school.

Yesterday and I spend the day following a student and observing all their classes. Year 7.

One particular science class about chromosomes flagged a question from a student about Down Syndrome and how it is caused. The question from another followed asking what Down Syndrome was and the teacher described it as a type of mongolism!

I was pretty shocked when I heard him say it, he mentioned it twice in the last half hour of the lesson.

He’s HOD, very experienced, near to retirement age, been there a long time.

I’ve not mentioned it to anyone else yet, but I know I should, shouldn’t I? I think if I was more established in the school I’d have flagged it up yesterday, but as I’m very new and only theee for 6 weeks I having doubts.

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shopaholics Fri 18-Jan-19 08:06:52

Flag it up. You have a duty to report this to someone as not only is the teacher using offensive language but should they have a child with a disability in the class would that child be treated differently?
I don't know how schools work compared to nurseries but is there a whistleblowing officer? There definitely should be a safeguarding officer if not who you should report it to.

UpTree Fri 18-Jan-19 08:09:59

Thanks. Yes there is a safeguarding lead.

My thoughts were similar to yours, if one of the students has a sibling and is hearing this.

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CallMeRachel Fri 18-Jan-19 08:12:06

Why wouldn't you approach him directly and say you were rather shocked at his description in the lesson and the current term would be more appropriate?

Running to the HT or whistleblowing seems rather immature. If he's old school and near retirement age it probably wasn't said to be deliberately offensive.

AgentProvocateur Fri 18-Jan-19 08:12:46

It’s not a safeguarding or a whistleblowing issue hmm It’s a case of an older person using terminology that is no longer acceptable. My uncle has DS and that’s what it was called when he was born. (He’s 50 now). A quiet word with the teacher in question would be the best way forward.

SinceYouAskMe Fri 18-Jan-19 08:13:02

Flag it up. He obviously missed the change in terminology which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a bad person, but he needs to know that that is not OK.

SinceYouAskMe Fri 18-Jan-19 08:14:20

But yes safeguarding seems OTT since it will have implications that probably aren’t appropriate.

PurpleDaisies Fri 18-Jan-19 08:14:40

He probably doesn’t realise it’s offensive-that used to be the correct terminology. Obviously it needs flagging up though, it isn’t acceptable to use that language now.

PurpleDaisies Fri 18-Jan-19 08:15:28

I would talk to him rather than the safeguarding lead. I’m not quite sure what the safeguarding issue is.

glamorousgrandmother Fri 18-Jan-19 08:16:16

It's a word that was commonly used back in the 70s, even by the medical profession, and not intended as an insult. Someone should have a quiet word with him, though, as it's not used now. I'm sure he didn't mean to cause offence, it's not like the racial slurs that were once deemed 'acceptable'.

UpTree Fri 18-Jan-19 08:25:33


This is part of the reason why I haven’t flagged it up yet. I know he wasn’t using it in an offensive way

OP’s posts: |
Qcng Fri 18-Jan-19 08:25:51

Yeah, just tell him directly "We don't use that term anymore".

Qcng Fri 18-Jan-19 08:27:03

You can even just say it in a cheery helpful way, not a scolding way.

shopaholics Fri 18-Jan-19 15:40:41

I said safeguarding because it could be a safeguarding issue if a disabled child enters the classroom who doesn't need a 121, no ta to witness anything, and he treats the child differently such as by excluding the child or using that language around the child.
Yes he's old, and yes he's nearing retirement and it could seem ott but honestly I personally wouldn't think twice about reporting it. Talking to him directly could cause him to flare up on the op, considering she probably has no idea of his temperament having not been there long.
Others can advise what they would do but in my workplace if I heard this I'd go straight to my whistleblowing officer or safeguarding officer. I'd rather be ott than do nothing/do something that could make matters worse for myself.

PurpleDaisies Fri 18-Jan-19 15:42:28

Why would he treat a child differently though? The op has said it wasn’t said in a derogatory way, just totally out of date with the correct terminology. I’m not saying it’s ok, it needs challenging but I think you’re really stretching it to say it’s a safeguarding issue.

shopaholics Fri 18-Jan-19 15:42:32

I would also hope anyone in the teaching profession, no matter how old, would know the term is inappropriate due to training around sen and just being a good enough teacher to keep up with the times

shopaholics Fri 18-Jan-19 15:44:49

The attitude towards disabled people was very different during the time when the terms that are now offensive weren't. As was the things teachers could do.
Therefore I don't think it's a stretch at all but everyone can believe what they want and the op can decide what they think is appropriate.

Bombardier25966 Fri 18-Jan-19 15:46:21

Needlessly going over someone's head to report them is going to mark you out as a trouble maker, not just with the individual teacher but also their colleagues.

Greentent Fri 18-Jan-19 16:31:27

I am a TA. I was once in a class and a teacher said something along similar lines. I waited till I had a chance to speak with him privately and had a word with him in a friendly and diplomatic way. He was mildly mortified and grateful I had pointed it out to him.

Casmama Fri 18-Jan-19 16:34:19

I would say to him that you hadn't heard that word used before and when you googled it the dictionary describes it as offensive and you just wanted to draw his attention to it.

albertcamus Fri 18-Jan-19 17:02:08

I agree with Bombardier and think you should concentrate on your own learning and practice

UpTree Fri 18-Jan-19 18:21:15

That’s what I thought bombardier that’s why I’ve asked advice in here from more experienced teachers.

OP’s posts: |
UpTree Fri 18-Jan-19 18:22:19

Also, shopaholics I don’t know him or anyone there well at all. I’m there for 6 weeks and don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

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UpTree Fri 18-Jan-19 18:23:29

albert but is it not a good culture to only concentrate on yourself in any job?

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PurpleDaisies Fri 18-Jan-19 18:24:56

I am an experienced teacher. This isn’t something to let go.

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