Leicester research into 550 cases highlights need to re-educate young children, report Dorothy Lepkowska and Roger Bushby
Three-quarters of racist incidences reported in Leicester schools involved primary pupils, figures show.
There were 548 racially-motivated incidents in the city's schools in 20045. Of these 415 were in primary, 77 in secondary and 37 in special schools. Nineteen were in pupil-referral units.
Almost 87 per cent involved verbal abuse and threats including name-calling and teasing.
More than 5 per cent involved pupils refusing to work with or co-operate with other children, and a few incidents took the form of bullying messages or texts.
A total of 21 incidents, or 3.5 per cent, involved physical abuse or violence. The figures are an increase on the previous year, when there were 514 incidents, with 377 of them in primary schools.
Earlier this month, a judge called for a racism case against a 10-year-old boy to be dropped because, he said, it was "political correctness gone mad". The boy, from Greater Manchester, was accused of calling a classmate names. This week the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case and said the boy had accepted a formal warning.
The most likely victims of racial abuse in Leicester were Indian children.
They accounted for almost a third of those being bullied, followed by African-Caribbeans - 10.6 per cent - and white British, 7.8 per cent. Boys were more likely to be victims than girls. They also instigated more of the racist bullying than girls, and were involved in 504 incidents compared to 138.
However, Chinese and Irish girls were more likely to be picked on than boys.
More than half - 55 per cent - of the bullies were white British, followed by Indians at 18 per cent.
Leicester city council, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, records racial incidents and bullying in schools on its website.
Hussein Suleman, the city's education and race relations spokesman, said:
"I am sure that in the majority of cases a young child will say something to upset another and won't understand what that word means. They say it to get a reaction, like saying they are fat, not because they are racist," he said.
"However, it shows we need to make sure children are educated about the different faiths and cultures who live in the city and having the figures means we can target primary schools."
Tony Sewell, an expert on the education of African-Caribbean pupils, said:
"There is a belief that children of primary age are too young to know what they are doing, but I think they know very well. Parents are complicit in this because they do not do enough to challenge it and perhaps even encourage it by saying things themselves at home."
Chris Hassall, head of Taylor Road primary, in inner-city Leicester, said his school had six rules, one of which was not to use racist language.
However, the figures did not surprise him.
"I have worked in areas of the city where children only know derogatory names for people from ethnic communities," he said. "We have to re-educate children about what is acceptable, but the figures can make primary schools look good, because they show children are not scared to report these problems."
Pam Maras, an educational psychologist at Greenwich university, said: "You would expect more incidents among secondary than primary pupils, especially as they are less well supervised in the playground."
A spokesperson for the Campaign for Racial Equality said: "It is important for schools to collate details of racist incidents so that they can develop a co-ordinated approach to ensure pupils and school staff can learn and work in a safe environment.
Why white kids fail: the issue, friday magazine