|30,000 pupils branded as bigots: Teachers log 'racist' and 'homophobic' jibes in playground squabbles, even at nursery
Mail | January 17, 2011
More than 10,000 primary school pupils in a single year have been labelled racist or homophobic over minor squabbles.
Even toddlers in nursery classes are being penalised for so-called hate crimes such as using the words ‘white trash’ or ‘gaylord’.
Schools are forced to report their language to education authorities, which keep a register of incidents.
This leads to at least 30,000 primary and secondary pupils per year being effectively classed as bigots because of anti-bullying rules.
The school can also keep the pupil’s name and ‘offence’ on file. The record can be passed from primaries to secondaries or when a pupil moves between schools at the request of the new head.
And if schools are asked for a pupil reference by a future employer or a university, the record could be used as the basis for it, meaning the pettiest of incidents has the potential to blight a child for life.
Figures for the year 2008-9 were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the civil liberties group, the Manifesto Club.
They show 29,659 racist incidents reported by schools to local education authorities in England and Wales. Of these, 10,436 were at primary schools and 41 at nursery schools.
Birmingham City Council had the highest number of any authority, with
1,607 racist incidents, compared with only two each in the Vale of Glamorgan
Yet in 51 cases police became involved, with Hertfordshire schools turning to officers for help in 38 incidents, according to the Manifesto Club report which will be published shortly.
A spotlight on just 15 LEAs discovered 341 homophobic incidents logged by schools in 2008-9, including 120 at primaries. A staggering 112 such incidents were reported in Barnet, North London.
At one primary, teachers filled out an incident form after three Year Four pupils, aged eight or nine, told a classmate he was ‘gay’ and could not play with them.
The Manifesto Club report’s author, Adrian Hart, said: ‘I feel that childhood itself is under attack. It’s absolutely the case that these policies misunderstand children quite profoundly.
‘Racist incident reporting generates the illusion of a problem with
racism in Britain’s schools by trawling the everyday world of playground
banter, teasing, childish insults – the sort of things that every teacher
knows happens out there in the playground.’
Teachers must name the alleged perpetrator and victim and spell out the incident and the punishment. Local authority records show the type of incident but not the name of the child involved.
LEAs are expected to monitor the number of incidents, look for patterns and plan measures to tackle any perceived problems. Heads who send in ‘nil’ returns are criticised for ‘under-reporting’.
In March 2007, the Commons Education Select Committee called for schools to record all types of bullying, including homophobic and disability-related.
LEAs also began demanding that schools report their homophobia data, alongside racist incidents, although not all do so.
Labour had also planned to make reporting ‘hate taunting’ statutory for every school but the policy is under review by the Coalition.