Recent press articles incorrectly claim that recording racist incidents means "labelling children as racists"
Article by Sarah Soyei
Every so often a certain set of stories appear in the press with headlines such as “Nursery Children Labelled as Bigots” and “’Racists’ aged THREE”. This week saw the reappearance of these articles in the Telegraph, Mail, Express and Evening Standard to name a few. It is vital to understand that the recording and reporting of racist incidents by schools is NOTHING to do with labelling or punishing children. It is ludicrous to suggest that future employers will be turning away candidates because they uttered a racist word at nursery. Baseless stories such as these are simply scaremongering and continue to erode belief in the value of recording racist incidents.
Recording racist incidents means that schools are able to identify patterns; do incidents rise in response to particular local or national events? Are the incidents all of a particular nature or between specific groups of young people?
It helps schools to identify whether any strategies that they have put in place are having an effect and to identify whether there are any specific training needs for staff or pupils.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it creates a school environment where young people know that they will be taken seriously, where all young people feel valued and where racism and discrimination are not accepted. It is beneficial for the Local Authority to collect this information, so that they can gain a better understanding of issues within schools and offer relevant help and support.
The media stories have been prompted by a press release by the Manifesto Club who wrote a report “The Myth of Racist Kids” in 2009. The author of this report believes that racist insults are just “banter” and that kids are “naturally resilient”. Amongst other things, the researcher also states that children “are unlikely to know the meaning of the words”.
Regardless of intent, racism causes very real damage to young people; targeted individuals may become scared, depressed and lacking in self-confidence and this can impact heavily on their progress at school. The report also ignores the damage that racism can cause to the perpetrator and the fact that young people need to be educated against racism and to learn why certain words and attitudes are unacceptable. Schools which take a proactive approach in educating young people about why racism is wrong and dealing with every incident are able to virtually eradicate it and create a positive school environment where every pupil feels safe and able to achieve.
Whilst it is considered good practice, there is no statutory duty for schools to report racist incidents and they are vastly under-recorded and under-reported. Media coverage of this kind does nothing but increase teachers’ fear of engaging with these issues and mean that even more incidents will be left unrecorded and possibly ignored altogether.
Show Racism the Red Card were commissioned to investigate issues of racism and inequality in the education system. Please follow this link to download our research document: The Barriers to Challenging Racism and Promoting Race Equality in England's Schools