Rise in racism among schoolchildren
REPORTS of racism among children are becoming more frequent in Suffolk schools, according to new statistics.
Discouraging figures, revealed by Suffolk County Council (SCC) as a result of a Freedom of Information request by The EADT, show incidents of racism rose by nearly 12% in a year.
The increase will be particularly galling for education bosses who last year welcomed a marked drop across much of the region in verbal abuse and racially motivated ostracism.
Reports of racism among primary school pupils totalled 231 during the 2008/09 academic year – up from 206 in 2007/08.
At middle school level, reported incidents fell slightly from 121 to 119, but at high school racism has become more common, with reported incidents rising from 214 in 2007/08 to 261 in 2008/09.
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The most startling increase came in the form of physical assaults and ‘‘racist graffiti’’ – reports of which more than doubled at schools in the west of the county.
In four years, since 2005, reports of racism in all of Suffolk’s schools have increased by nearly half, with incidents in high school’s more than doubling from 112 to 261. Schools have been reporting incidents of racism since 1993 and the council has insisted upon a 100% declaration of reports since the 1996/97 academic year.
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In response to the findings, SCC said schools with an increase in the number of incidents have improved reporting systems and have made it clear to staff that all incidents must be reported, which the council said has led to more incidents being recorded.
Adrian Orr, the council’s senior advisor for social inclusion who has been leading the battle against racism in schools, said: “There has been a rise in the number of racist incidents that has been reported by schools across the county and it is an issue that we are closely investigating.
“Schools are reporting more incidents than they did in the past. We are now proactively checking for this kind of incident – where schools may in the past not have reported incidents they are doing so now.”
Mr Orr said there were many complex issues surrounding racism at school and the nature of the schools themselves was an important factor.
He said: “There are more students from a black or minority ethnic background in schools in the southern part of the county rather than the north or west.
“But that does raise different questions. If there are smaller numbers, does that increase the danger of people feeling isolated or ostracised?
“We will be getting new figures later in the year and they will tell their own story again – this is an issue the county is determined to remain on top of.”
The percentage of minority pupils in Suffolk schools has increased from 8.7% in the January 2008 school census to 12.7% in January 2009.
But Jane Basham, Chief Executive of Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality said: “The impact of racism on young people is not properly being addressed.
“Attitudes towards immigration and Islamaphobia are spilling over into our schools and is cause for concern.
“Some schools report incidents quickly, while others don’t appear to take them as seriously. And the report doesn’t tell us what schools are doing about it.
“We face a real challenge, but feel confident that Adrian Orr is listening to our concerns.”
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