Racist incident report changes delayed

31st July 2009 at 01:00

Proposed changes to the way racist incidents are reported by schools have been delayed.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families was due to introduce a statutory requirement next term for schools to keep a record of all incidents of verbal and physical abuse that could be perceived as racist bullying.

But this has now been postponed, and the department says it will now begin consultation - which had been due to take place in the spring - in the autumn.

The potentially serious nature of racist bullying was exposed last week when a 15-year-old was convicted of racially aggravated harassment at Lincoln magistrates court. The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, bombarded a girl with racist abuse for months, causing her to consider suicide. The boy is due to be sentenced next month.

Currently, schools are advised to record and follow up racist incidents and to report numbers to the local authority.

However, schools are not under a specific duty to do so; instead, they have recorded them as a response to their wider duty to assess the impact of their racial equality policy.

Berenice Mills, a consultant on race and education issues, said she was concerned that the proposals might be watered down. Writing in this month's issue of the journal Race Equality Teaching, she said: "If the DCSF were to change the requirement on schools to report racist bullying to a requirement to record bullying only, and to stop recording or reporting all racist incidents, it would be an extremely serious retrograde step, contrary to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry's recommendations."

Keith Vaz MP, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, said it was vital that information on racist bullying was recorded and made available to the public.

"We need to ensure that the recording and reporting of bullying statistics is open and transparent, and to do all we can to reduce the number of incidents of this kind," he said.

In 2006-07, there were 4,410 temporary and permanent exclusions as a result of racist abuse, and 350 of them occurred in primaries.

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