Organisers of an education conference have faced criticism for excluding an educator from a panel discussion due to complaints that her presence made attendees feel “unsafe.” Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, the director of Don’t Divide Us (DDU), an organisation that opposes the UK’s “divisive obsession with people’s racial identity,” was scheduled to speak at the Rethinking Education Conference. The event aims to improve the education system, but organisers made the decision to disinvite Cuthbert, citing the importance of “psychological safety” for free debate.
Cuthbert expressed her frustration at being cancelled, pointing out that safeguarding typically applies to protecting children and vulnerable individuals, not adults. She criticized the notion that her presence could cause psychological harm to a small number of attendees and result in her exclusion from the panel. Despite being the panelist most vocal against indoctrination and a woman of colour, Cuthbert was disinvited from the conference.
The Rethinking Education Conference’s director, James Mannion, prioritized the safety of speakers and delegates when making the decision to exclude Cuthbert. He emphasized the importance of having difficult conversations and subjecting ideas to scrutiny and challenge. Several individuals, including speakers and delegates, expressed concerns about feeling unsafe speaking alongside a representative of Don’t Divide Us. Mannion stated that when someone expresses feelings of unsafety, it is crucial to listen.
Don’t Divide Us has conducted investigations into anti-racist policies, arguing that they impose new ideologies on institutions and contribute to the “re-racialising” of society. The organisation’s advisory council includes figures such as Tony Sewell CBE, Rakib Ehsan, and Stephen Pollard. Don’t Divide Us has raised concerns about the Church of England embracing critical race theory (CRT) in its schools and promotes the concept of a “pyramid of white supremacy.” They also highlight the prevalence of third-party providers that promote concepts like “structural racism” and “white privilege” in educational materials, calling for greater transparency and accountability in their dissemination.