Shocking number of racist incidents in schools

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Tens of thousands of racist incidents were recorded in schools over five years, new figures reveal.

Incidents from 90 areas across the UK show the extent of racist bullying, including verbal and physical attacks.

In total, 87,915 cases were recorded by local authorities, following reports from schools between 2007 and 2011, according to statistics obtained by the BBC Asian Network.

The figures show Birmingham – one of the biggest local authorities – had 5,752 cases, the highest number recorded, followed by Leeds at 4,690.

Under Labour, schools had to monitor and report incidents of racist abuse to their local council but the coalition has scrapped the requirement and they no longer need to record cases.

Instead they are expected to have a “consistent” approach to monitoring bullying which means some record incidents, while others will not keep written records.

National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Russell Hobby said the figures were “hugely disappointing”.

“The impact of racial abuse can be devastating,” he said.

“Schools need to remain places of optimism and belonging for every student.

“We urge our members to go beyond recording, reporting and compliance, to really focus on the culture and ethos of the school and its community to tackle incidents of racial abuse head on.”

Mr Hobby said figures produced in 2007 suggested that the numbers appeared to be falling, but added that the statistics are still “way too high”.

Schoolchildren in England were expelled on 20 occasions for racist abuse in 2009-10, the latest year for which figures are available, and there were 3,900 suspensions.

The latest findings follow research last summer that also highlighted a problem with racism in England’s schools.

More than four-fifths of teachers questioned said they had witnessed racist attitudes or behaviour among their students, according to a study by anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card, supported by the National Union of Teachers. This included name-calling, comments, jokes and stereotyping of different races.

And almost a third of those questioned said they had seen similar behaviour among teachers.

A spokesman for Show Racism the Red Card said yesterday: “Unfortunately, the numbers of recorded racist incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Racism is a very real issue in many classrooms around the country, but cases of racist bullying are notoriously under- reported.

“Targeted individuals may become scared, depressed and lacking in self-confidence and this can impact heavily on their progress at school.

“Recording racist incidents means that schools are able to identify patterns; do incidents rise in response to particular local or national events? Are the incidents all of a particular nature or between specific groups of young people?

“It helps schools to identify whether any strategies that they have put in place are having an effect and to identify whether there are any specific training needs for staff or pupils.

“Young people need to be educated in order for them to reject prejudice and help them to understand why racist attitudes and behaviours are wrong.

“We are concerned that if schools stop recording the incidents that are occurring amongst their pupil cohort this will affect their ability to respond appropriately and effectively to the issues of racism that young people are facing.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “There is no room in civilised, modern society for racism.

“Schools have tough powers to crack down on abusive and badly behaved pupils – as well as clear responsibility to teach tolerance and respect for others.

“Heads and teachers are professional enough never to be complacent in dealing with this issue – parents and pupils expect them to remain vigilant and step in to prevent it whenever it occurs.”