MP demands urgent action as new data reveals race-bully exclusions are soaring

29th May 2009 at 01:00
Chair of Commons home affairs select committee slams 'unacceptable figure' from DCSF following parliamentary question

Temporary exclusions due to racist abuse and attacks have soared by more than 40 per cent in just three years at secondary schools and by 20 per cent at primaries, government figures show.

The statistics were released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families following a parliamentary question last week.

The department started collecting data on exclusions as a result of racist abuse in 200304, when 2,220 secondary pupils were temporarily excluded. The number had climbed to 3,790 in 200607, when the last figures were collected, while 350 primary pupils were excluded.

The parliamentary question was tabled by Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee.

He also put forward an early-day motion, after a Teachers TV survey found that 55.1 per cent of education employees were aware of racist bullying in their school and almost 70 per cent of respondents said their school had no strategy to combat it.

Mr Vaz said: "'The (DCSF) figures are a real concern ... (40 per cent increase is) an unacceptable figure that demands urgent action."

Campaigners see the statistics as evidence that racist bullying has become endemic in schools.

The charity Beatbullying believes the rise in fixed-term exclusions shows a "clear problem with cultural cohesion" in schools.

Beatbullying spokesman Richard Piggin told The TES: "We have found (racist bullying) is more to do with a lack of opportunities for pupils to explore different cultures and understand the harm that can be caused through this lack of understanding."

Much of the bullying centres on religion, he said, and suggested schools try to create environments that allow pupils to explore issues around different faiths and races.

The increase in exclusions, he suggested, could be because schools are more aware of racist bullying, particularly after it became compulsory to record incidents.

"There is still a serious problem and we will be satisfied only when the numbers are going down," Mr Piggin said.

The DCSF said part of the reason for the increase in exclusions was a change in the scope and method of collecting the data, but added that schools have a duty to prevent racist bullying.

Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: "We have clear guidance on how to tackle racist bullying and send a clear message to young people that it is completely unacceptable. Schools also have a duty to have measures in place to prevent and tackle bullying, and incidents of racist bullying need to be recorded by schools and reported to the local authority.

Schools have firm powers to permanently exclude pupils where needed, even for a first offence. We have repeatedly stated that a teacher's authority must be absolute in the classroom and we support heads where they take the difficult decision to exclude."

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