Experts call for action to end racist abuse once schools reopen


Charity Kidscape said it has been in contact with children dur­ing lockdown who were “relieved” to be taught at home because of name-calling from classmates (Photo: iStock).
Charity Kidscape said it has been in contact with children dur­ing lockdown who were “relieved” to be taught at home because of name-calling from classmates (Photo: iStock).

By Nadeem Badshah

SCHOOLS and the government have been urged to do more to tackle racist bullying suffered by pupils as classes resume.

Charity Kidscape said it has been in contact with children dur­ing lockdown who were “relieved” to be taught at home because of name-calling from classmates.

With the government aiming for all pupils to return to class­rooms by September, ministers have been urged to do more on education and support for chil­dren who are targeted over their race or religion.

Calls made to the Diana Award, a charity that supports young peo­ple affected by cyber-bullying, have also surged by 100 per cent during lockdown.

Lauren Seager-Smith, the CEO of Kidscape, told Eastern Eye: “School is not a safe place for all children. Kidscape has been in touch with children and families during lockdown who have been relieved to be away from school because of their experiences of bullying while there.

“We urge the government to work with schools to ensure that there is a focus on the emotional health, wellbeing and safety of all students, with funding for transi­tion programmes that include support for building positive and healthy relationships.”

Primary-school exclusions for racism in England are up more than 40 per cent in just over a dec­ade, with the biggest rise in the northwest of the country, figures in January showed.

There were 496 temporary ex­clusions for racism from primary schools in 2017-18, compared to 350 in 2006-07.

Recent cases include a six-year-old boy in Norfolk, whose mother is white and father is Bangladeshi. He resorted to wearing make-up so his skin would appear lighter due to name calling from pupils.

Some parents have chosen not to send their children back to classes over Covid-19 fears and bullies. Secondary schools in Eng­land have been allowed to reopen for Years 10 and 12 since mid- June. But only a quarter of eligible pupils are allowed in school at any one time.

Plans to get all primary pupils in England back for four weeks be­fore the summer holidays have been dropped.

The National Union of Teachers (NEU) has called for a review of the curriculum “to ensure it em­braces the fact that Britain is root­ed in black and global history, achievement and culture”. It is also seeking a teacher training review to equip all trainees with anti-rac­ist strategies and to adopt a strat­egy to make new entrants to the profession significantly more di­verse over the next four years.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of NEU, said: “Racism will not be addressed without pos­itive action and we need to talk openly and candidly about racism and the social division and harm­ful stereotyping it creates for black workers and young black people. There are many steps that must be taken – and taken now – to build a better approach to the national curriculum after Covid-19 and adopt a wider vision of education than a system that is all about ex­am results.

“This term, the NEU will launch an anti-racist framework to re­spond to the experiences of black children and black staff, and to help education staff develop anti-racist approaches.”

Martha Evans, director of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said schools must make wellbeing a priority and lay a strong founda­tion of support that responds to issues including tackling bullying of all forms.

She added: “Schools must be explicit about their desire to tackle inequality, including racism in school. They should be looking across their system to do this, thinking about their own bias too.

“Pupils should be asked about their experiences of racism and racist bullying, and we call on the government to consider training for school staff and to conduct re­search into levels of racist bullying that are happening in schools across the country.”

Kishan Devani, a former teach­er and vice-president of the Liber­al Democrats Campaign for Race Equality, told Eastern Eye: “Tackle bullying in schools, including bul­lying on the basis of gender, sexu­ality, gender identity, or gender expression, by promoting pastoral leadership in schools.”

The board member for the Lib Dems added: “Replace Ofsted [regulator] with a new HM inspec­tor of schools.

“Inspections should take place every three years and should con­sider a broader range of factors, including the social and emotion­al development of children, and the wellbeing of staff and pupils.

“Independent schools should also be subject to the same inspec­tion regime.”

Visit charity Kidscape at www. kidscape.org.uk and the Anti-Bully­ing Alliance at www.anti-bullying alliance.org.uk for more informa­tion and support.