Teachers warn Nicky Morgan of racism in schools following Brexit vote

Teachers highlight the importance of citizenship after racist 'backlash' in schools following the referendum

Irena Barker

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Teachers are dealing with an increasing number of racist incidents in schools following the EU referendum, it emerged this week.

The Association for Citizenship Teaching (Act) has written to education secretary Nicky Morgan to highlight a rise in pupils using racist language in schools and the role good citizenship teaching has to play in tackling the issue.

Chris Waller, Act professional officer, said the focus on immigration during the referendum campaign had left teachers dealing with a “backlash” in schools.

“The Vote Leave campaign predicated a lot of publicity around immigration and led last Friday morning to us getting phone calls and emails saying ‘Help, what do we do about this?’ from experienced teachers,” he added.

A number of teachers reported that students from Eastern European or ethnic minority backgrounds were asking “Is it true that we are all going to have to leave now?”

Mr Waller said: “Other children – predominantly white – were coming to teachers and saying, ‘Leave has won so we can get rid of all these mosques now and close them down.’ ”

There were also some reports of parents ringing up to say that they were concerned about their children in school after the result of the vote, he added.

The comments from Act came as newspapers reported that notices saying “No more Polish vermin” were being distributed near a primary in Huntingdon. A Twitter user also said his daughter had found graffiti in her school toilets calling for a pupil to go back to Romania.

Lee Jerome, an associate professor in education at Middlesex University who is visiting schools working on the Prevent strategy said: “In Portsmouth, the backlash of the Brexit vote resulted in some Muslim children coming in in tears thinking the mosque was being closed down and some of the white, working-class kids shouting at them.”

Act has drawn up guidance for schools on how to deal with the aftermath of the referendum.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are clear that no child should live in fear of racism or bullying. As underlined by the Prime Minister in his speech following the EU referendum result – there will be no immediate changes in circumstances for European citizens living here. We will not stand for hate crime or attacks and they must be stamped out.

“Schools must promote the fundamental British values of mutual respect and tolerance for those of all backgrounds and faiths, and they are required by law to have measures in place to prevent bullying – including racist bullying.  

“To support them we are providing charitable organisations £3.3million in 2015-16 on top of the £4m pledged the year before to deliver training, support and expertise in tackling bullying.”

This is an edited article from the 1 July edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Irena Barker

Irena Barker is a freelance journalist.

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