Racism in schools

The extent of racist incidents in British country’s classrooms is exposed for first time as a result of a Channel 4 News online survey. There is no reporting mechanism in Irish schools but we can sure that the data would be extensive.A Freedom of Information (FoI) probe of more than 90 education authorities in England exposes the true extent of racist tensions in schools, with nearly 100,000 incidents now documented.Cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham have seen a distinct hike in reported racism in the classroom – prompting fears of a link with perceptions over terrorism.Robust responseEducation authorities say increases are down to better reporting methods; and a more robust approach to the problem.Too embarrassed or frightened to reportHeidi Mirza, an equalities professor at the Institute of Education, said: “These statistics are just the tip of the ice-berg. There are a lot of young people who don’t want to report this because they are too embarrassed or frightened to do so.”I think there’s a definite problem with racism in schools, I think one of the biggest issues we have is actually the under-reporting of these incidents.”The number of racist incidents recorded in Leeds’ schools jumped from 1,142 in 2002/3 to 1,430 in 2005/6. Over the same period Birmingham’s schools saw an increase from 832 to 1,577. And Manchester’s schools from 590 to 696. Other noticeable rises in racist reports were in Bolton, Coventry, Derby, Dudley, Kent and Lancashire. Based on like-for-like FoI responses of 69 councils, racist rows rose from 16,251 in 2003/4; to 18,625 in 2005/6. Our probe shows that 95,022 have been reported since records began. Although one authority (Greenwich) started recording racist incidents in 1998, the vast majority have only been doing it for the past three to four years. Monica Galt, a senior figure at the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “My reaction is one of disappointment and concern: I’m surprised and we will take this on board.”We’ll have to look at giving guidance for schools on this – for head teachers and teachers – on how to analyse what is racism.Not enough being done“We’re not doing enough in our schools to prevent this happening and that’s what we should be doing.” A racist incident in school is defined as any situation which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person. It can range from name-calling to severe physical abuse.http://www.channel4.com/news/article.jsp?id=529272Predominantly white communities fail to acknowledge racismMeanwhile another UK study in 1999 found thatSchools serving predominantly white communities are not responding adequately to the problems of racism, claim researchers.In the week that the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report called for a greater awareness of ethnic diversity in schools, researchers from the Children’s Legal Centre charity at the University of Essex have claimed that teachers are failing to recognise the extent of racism in schools.The researchers carried out a confidential survey of 15 secondary schools in East Anglia, all with a majority of white pupils, to see how racism was addressed in lessons and how it was tackled as a problem among pupils.Racism and BullyingThe centre’s director, Carolyn Hamilton, says that schools with few black pupils often failed to identify there was a problem with racism, with a reluctance to consider racial incidents as separate from other bullying.Pupils more aware than teachersWhen teachers and pupils were interviewed separately it revealed a much greater awareness of racism among pupils than teachers. While both black and white pupils reported racist name-calling and violent incidents, teachers were often apparently unaware of the problem.Researchers found that ethnic minority pupils had been subjected to verbal abuse and racist graffiti. But these black pupils, often isolated among a large majority of whites, were reluctant for anti-racist lessons to be too direct, as this would leave them feeling singled out and exposed.In terms of schools’ responses to the problem, researchers found that there was little consistency in either disciplinary measures against racism or in policies to improve understanding of other cultures.In conclusion the researchers say the schools “did not adequately prepare pupils for life in a multicultural society”.In the report’s recommendations, they call for “guidance and support” for teachers to help them prevent racism in schools. This could involve the Commission for Racial Equality setting up a code for good practice in anti-racist education.Other proposals call for training for teachers in multicultural awareness, the inspection by the Office for Standards in Education of school anti-racist policies and the involvement of representatives from local ethnic minority communities.There is also a call for a European Union-wide project to encourage schools with a small number of ethnic minority pupils to do more to counter racism.

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