Study finds alarming levels of racism, bullying in UK schools

Almost one in five (17 per cent) students, who had been bullied, said the experience triggered suicidal thoughts. (Representational image: iStock)
Almost one in five (17 per cent) students, who had been bullied, said the experience triggered suicidal thoughts. (Representational image: iStock)

By S Neeraj Krishna

MORE than half of children entering teenage in the UK have come across racism in schools, according to a new study.

Research by an anti-bullying campaign found that 32 per cent of children aged six to 15 had heard racist comments. The figure shot up to 52 per cent among 13-year-olds covered in a poll of over 1,000 students.

The findings came amid rising educational uncertainties due to the pandemic, with 33 per cent of students “more worried that usual about returning to class”, the Guardian reported on Tuesday (22).

The research – commissioned by youth charity The Diana Award and Nationwide Building Society – sought to assess the “true extent of racism and bullying in schools”, and “raise awareness among both pupils and their parents”.

About three-quarters of the 1,000 parents surveyed considered racism to be a problem. Yet, researchers noted, four in ten of them had not discussed the subject with their children recently.

Children in “more diverse areas” were “far more likely” to have come across racism, the study said. London topped the list, with four of 10 students surveyed saying they had heard racist comments. On the other end, only one in seven children in Northern Ireland reported similar experiences.

Though there was no split-up based on ethnicities of respondents, analysts believed students from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to hear racism.

“I’ve experienced a lot of racial attacks, whether it’s covertly or overtly,” the study quoted Rose Agnew, aged 14, from Warwick, as saying.

“The more covert things being girls making fun of my hair or even some of the foods I would bring in at break.”

Researchers were also alarmed at the high incidence of bullying — 46 per cent of the children said they had been bullied at school.

Almost one in five (17 per cent) students, who had been bullied, said the experiences triggered suicidal thoughts.

Nearly six in ten of these children said they skipped school or wanted to do so due to bullying fears. Nearly one in seven of them had moved to other schools or placed under to home-schooling due to concerns over bullying.

More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of the affected students said the bitter experiences left them “feeling anxious”, while over half of them (56 per cent) they experienced trouble sleeping.

At least four in 10 said fear and stress made them “avoid social events”.

The Diana Award charity said it will organise a “big anti-bullying assembly”, which will be streamed live to classrooms and homes, on September 28.

England and Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings, national football manager Gareth Southgate and boxer Lawrence Okolie were among celebrities who backed the campaign.

“I feel like everybody’s differences should be celebrated, there’s no shame or harm in being different so that’s why I’m putting my hand up to commit to putting an end to bullying,” said Mings.

Okolie shared his own childhood experience while expressing solidarity with victims of bullying.

“I was always big for my age so it was the older boys who would do the name calling, the punching and the kicking,” he said.

“The walks home, getting chased, that’s where it was tough. I remember making myself sick so that I could leave school early and avoid having to see people on the way home.”

The Diana Award said it had trained more than 33,000 anti-bullying ambassadors 3,800 schools across the UK, and was committed to rooting out the social evil traumatising children.