Suffolk: Concern at rise in racist incidents in schools

RACISM in Suffolk’s schools is a growing problem with on average of 18 incidents taking place every week, according to new figures.

Discouraging figures, revealed by Suffolk County Council, as a result of a Freedom of Information request, show incidents of racism rose by 7.5% in a year.

It is the first time that statistics have been broken down to reflect the exact amount of racist incidents in each Suffolk school.

Across the county an average of 18 racial incidents took place every week, with a total of 684 reports from September 2009 through to July 2010.

Jane Basham, chief executive of Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), said that the figures were “horribly disappointing” and claimed that the county council was not taking the correct action.

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In the past academic year, 19 incidents were reported at Chantry High School in Ipswich, 13 incidents at Stowmarket High and 12 at Debenham High.

Statistics from Sudbury Upper School and Art College showed that since 2005, there have been 104 racial incidents on the school grounds. The school’s figures have declined since 2006-7 with 15 incidents noted last year.

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In addition there were 11 racist reports at Breckland Middle, Brandon, nine at Hardwick Middle, Bury St Edmunds, and eight at Bacton Middle.

Reports of racism among primary school pupils totalled 239 during the 2008/09 academic year – up by nine incidents from the previous year.

At middle school level, reported racist incidents have risen by more than a fifth, with the statistics showing that there were 119 in 2008/09 and 144 in 2009/10.

Over a four-year period, from 2005, reports of racism across all of Suffolk’s schools have increased by 54%, with incidents in high schools jumping from 112 to 285.

The report revealed that 184 schools reported no incidents.

Ms Basham said: “It appears that some schools just aren’t taking this seriously enough. The report suggests that more than half of Suffolk schools haven’t reported any incidents at all – I feel strongly that this is probably not the case.

“Children’s lives are being completely blighted by racism in parts of the county and it has a devastating effect.

“I don’t feel that the county council is doing enough to help schools with these issues, they should be sending in community groups like ISCRE to schools yet they aren’t. We face a real challenge ahead.” Other statistics reveal that the proportion of male perpetrators has continued to rise to 91.8% compared to 88.4% in 08/09.

More than 70% of the victims of racist incidents were from minority ethnic groups – who comprised just over a tenth of the school population.

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.

More than 115 incidents were reported at Copleston High School, Ipswich, in the past five years. Between 2008 and 2009, figures rocketed to 45, but in the next year decreased to 24. Shaun Common, the headteacher, said that the school had been praised for being so thorough in its reports.

Graham Newman, the county councillor responsible for children and young people’s services, said: “Racism, or any form of discrimination in Suffolk’s schools, is unacceptable and we need to take swift and decisive action to tackle it.

“These latest figures are of course concerning and go some way to demonstrating how much needs to be done in this area.

“I am encouraged that Suffolk County Council’s considerable efforts to ensure all schools report incidents are bringing these issues out into the open and we’ve now written to all headteachers asking them review their approach to tackling discrimination.

“Schools should be a place for learning and development and not a place where you can be bullied or intimidated.”

Highest number of incidents in 09/10

1. Copleston High, Ipswich – 24

1. Thurleston High – 24

3. Chantry High, Ipswich – 19

4. Pipers Vale Primary, Ipswich – 17

5. St Felix Middle School, Newmarket – 16

6. Sudbury Upper – 15

6. Mildenhall College – 15

8. Hadleigh High – 14

9. Dale Hall Primary – 13

9. Great Cornard Upper – 13

9. Stowmarket High – 13

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