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Racial equality schemes 'weak'

All bar one of Scotland's 32 education authorities have provided race equality schemes in compliance with new legislation. But, says the Commission for Racial Equality, the quality of the schemes is "quite weak."

A spokesperson for the Commission, which will announce the results of a major survey at a conference on Monday, told The TES Scotland early indications are that, while authorities have complied with the formal requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the CRE is not clear how intentions will be translated into actions.

"That, for us, is a problem," the spokesperson added. The new Act means educational institutions and others must log race incidents, which some education authorities already do voluntarily. They must also take proactive steps to eradicate racism.

The CRE report follows one from Children in Scotland. More than half of 192 young people in an online survey had witnessed racial verbal abuse in their schools and 35 per cent had experienced such abuse at school.

The CiS survey, published at the third "equal futures" conference in Glasgow this week, also showed that 28 per cent had seen physical abuse, 14 per cent had experienced physical abuse and almost half of the respondents had experience of some kind of racism.

Authorities are now beginning to step up action. Earlier this year East Dunbartonshire Council ascribed a rise in racist incidents in schools to "increased vigilance of staff in recording incidents", and last month Fife's education director urged schools to take "immediate active measures" after what he said was "a considerable rise" in racial incidents.

But following one of the conference workshops, Kay Hampton, depute chair of the CRE, told The TESS that people in schools were often afraid to talk about racism openly.

"It would appear that there is still a culture of silence and perhaps one of the solutions is to create forums where people can talk openly without guilt and without fear of being called racist.

"That is the starting-point - to bring it into the open, accept that it exists and be able to talk about it and deal with it. If we maintain a culture of silence, it will persist," she said.

One secondary school teacher, who did not want to be named, said: "I have witnessed and reported racist incidents in my school, but they were not recorded as such by the management."

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