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.