Schools report 40,000 cases of racism a year
More than 250,000 alleged racist incidents have been reported in schools as staff are forced to investigate every single playground spat, it has been claimed.
Primary school pupils and toddlers in nurseries are being punished for making racist insults, according to a report, even if they don’t understand the terms they use.
Teachers are being treated like counter staff in police stations as they have to fill in forms detailing name-calling and jokes.
Meanwhile diversity “missionaries” are said to be increasing the divide between white and black children by forcing them to see everything through the prism of race.
Adrian Hart, the author of the report published by the Manifesto Club, a civil liberties group, said: “The obligation on schools to report these incidents wastes teachers’ time, interferes in children’s space in the playground, and undermines teachers’ ability to deal with problems in their classrooms.
“Worse, such anti-racist policies can create divisions where none had existed, by turning everyday playground spats into ‘race issues’.
Schools that send in “nil” returns are criticised for “under-reporting”, and are sent letters telling them to put up posters raising awareness.
Any school that fails to investigate alleged racist incidents risks being seen as “condoning racism”, according to the official TeacherNet website.
Meanwhile those that report high numbers of racist incidents are praised for operating a “zero-tolerance” approach including, according to Essex, “an ethos which actively seeks to identify and eradicate all manifestations of racism, however trivial they may seem”.
Teachers and other school staff are allowed to report racism even if the alleged “victim” was not offended.
In many cases, the “perpetrator” is punished by the head teacher and their parents will be told.
The new report shows an example of a Racist Incident Referral Form in which a girl who called a boy “white trash” during a football game was “severely spoken to” and suffered “loss of lunchtime play”.
Sometimes the police are also called in, with the Crown Prosecution Service prosecuting 2,916 children aged between 10 and 17 for race or religious hate crimes in 2007-08, up from 404 just two years earlier.
In addition, 4,410 pupils were suspended or expelled for racist abuse in 2006-07, 350 of them in primary schools.
Even toddlers at nursery school are treated as potential racists, the report claims, with staff told “the earlier you can pick up any tendency towards discriminatory or prejudicial behaviour, the better chance you have of successfully tackling it”.
Mr Hart believes race equality “missionaries” who scrutinise relationships in schools are actually increasing division between pupils.
He says “anti-racism workshops” lead to more reported incidents, which means more intervention by officials.
One head teacher told him that an assembly on respect for difference had led to an “awful atmosphere” as “children who used to play beautifully together .. separate along racial lines”.
The report quotes a youth worker who says that when children of different backgrounds fight “it’s not always a race issue”, but when it becomes recorded as such it “causes racism” because the children feel they have been treated unfairly.
Mr Hart recommends that the compulsory reporting of alleged racism is scrapped, and that schools are allowed to develop their own policies of discussing diversity and dealing with playground disputes.
Diana Johnson, the Schools Minister, said: “Bullying in all forms, including those motivated by prejudice, is totally unacceptable and should not be tolerated. No-one should suffer the pain and indignity which bullying or racist abuse can cause.