Racism 'a very real issue' in English schools

15th July 2011 at 01:00
Survey shows 83% of teachers have witnessed jokes, name-calling and stereotyping

Racism is still a "very real issue" in English schools, according to research. Pupils have "strong racist attitudes" and even teachers use inappropriate terminology and jokes, a study by Show Racism the Red Card found.

A total of 83 per cent of teachers questioned by the charity said they had witnessed offensive behaviour among children, including name-calling, racist comments, jokes, stereotyping and "a tendency to use asylum seekers as scapegoats for a wide range of problems in society".

The study found many teachers did not know how to deal with racist incidents and would not want to get involved if it was "unintentional".

Researchers gathered evidence from 900 teachers during a training session and visits to 480 schools over 18 months. They also used information from 148 questionnaires completed by teachers and 10 interviews.

At Show Racism the Red Card workshops, pupils asked questions such as "What is the polite word for Paki?", "Why can black people use the word 'nigger' and we get in trouble for using it?" and "Is it OK to use the word 'chinki'?"

The report said similar questions were asked in "nearly every school" visited by the charity around the country.

Primary-school teachers reported children using phrases such as "Paki shops" and "chinki restaurants". One white child shouted "Here comes the Taliban" when an Asian girl entered the room, and teachers said white pupils used racist terminology as insults.

In workshops, Show Racism the Red Card staff found a "significant number" of children held "strong negative opinions and there was casual use of racism terminology".

More than a third of the surveyed teachers said they had never received training in tackling racism or promoting equality. Only 12 per cent had been provided with strategies for supporting asylum-seeking and refugee pupils.

Ged Grebby, chief executive of Show Racism the Red Card, said the research showed there was a "huge gap" in teacher training.

"Teachers need to be empowered with skills and knowledge in order to be better equipped to deal with these issues in schools," he said.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said teachers were "totally committed to tackling racism".

"It is extremely important that teachers have the training and resources to tackle these issues in order to deal with them in a constructive and informed fashion," she added.

But Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads' union the NAHT, said it was difficult for teachers to counteract the influence of families.

"Children pick up language without knowing what it means, but they do know it's an insult. Unfortunately they pick up unacceptable attitudes and language from their parents," he said.


The questions pupils asked

- "Is saying 'blackboard' racist?"

- "Is it true that black people have an extra bone in their heel and that's why they sink in water?"

- "Why do they wear funny things on their heads?"

- "Why don't they just stay in their own countries?"

- "I'm not being nasty, but I don't like people coming into our country as they are stealing our jobs and taking our money and taking over our land."

- "Why are there black people in the world when Adam and Eve were white?"

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