A teacher of Chinese heritage says she has suffered five separate incidents of racism from primary pupils since the outbreak of the coronavirus – and has called on schools to do more to address pupil misconceptions about the disease.
The British-born primary school teacher, in her mid-40s, who wishes to remain anonymous, said pupils as young as 6 had accused her of bringing the virus into the country.
She said: “Children think they're going to die and that’s why they're reacting badly to me – because I’m Chinese heritage – but schools need to help children understand what they’re seeing in the media.
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“Schools need to be very open with pupils and address fake news through things like whole-school assemblies and PSHE lessons.
“It might be that they’re worried that if they do this they might panic children – but there is panic already.
“What I’m saying to children is that we just need to do rigorous hand-washing and stick to what the government has told us to do.”
The teacher, who has 20 years’ experience and is a supply teacher in the Greater London area, said the five incidents happened in three different schools and involved children from Years 2 to 6.
On one occasion, while she was dismissing her class of Year 3 children, a Year 6 pupil said the word “coronavirus” in her ear before running off and saying, “It was a joke.”
Another incident involved a group of Year 3 children telling pupils in her class, also Year 3, that she had coronavirus.
She added: “There was a Year 2 pupil who said to another one, ‘My mum says don’t go near her because she’s got coronavirus,' but the other pupil said that was rude and another said it was racist.”
The news follows a warning from the NASUWT teaching union earlier this month, which highlighted a rise in incidents of racism towards Chinese and East Asian pupils and teachers following the outbreak.
The teacher told Tes said she had been unable to get race incident forms at any of the schools, so had resorted to keeping her own logs of the incidents.
“In reality, the police would see these as hate crimes – where the pupils involved are over 10 years old – although I would say I have evidence that younger children know the difference between right and wrong and can spot racism from key stage 1," she said.
“I feel isolated. I’ve had to deal with this myself, but I feel other teachers might not be as confident as me.”
“This doesn’t make me want to get up in the morning to go to work knowing that potentially I might have to deal with racist comments – on top of the pressure of meeting children who I don’t know.”
A DfE spokesperson said: "Racism or bullying of any kind is completely unacceptable and there is no excuse for it in any circumstances.
"We have set up a dedicated helpline for education leaders, teaching staff and parents to answer questions about coronavirus related to education, complementing the advice being provided by Public Health England and the regular updates we have been sending to all educational settings since the start of February."
The latest DfE guidance on Covid-19 (coronavirus) for education settings is available here.