Edinburgh’s leader of education has said the reporting of almost 400 racist incidents in the city’s schools over the last two years highlights the “positive work” that has been carried out to promote equality.
More than 1,200 racist incidents were reported in Scottish schools overall in 2011 and 2012, according to figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats under freedom of information requests. Of this total, 730 took place in primary schools and 544 at secondaries. However, only three quarters of local authorities responded.
In the Scottish capital, 114 racist incidents were recorded in secondary schools and a further 279 in primaries over the two years.
Paul Godzik, education convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “A lot of positive work is carried out in our schools to promote equality and highlight unacceptable behaviour such as racism. These statistics show that pupils are fully aware of this and are confident in reporting it to staff or their peers.”
A new equalities and anti-bullying policy was implemented in primary and secondary schools this year, he said. “Any form of bullying is completely unacceptable and I hope the progress being made in our schools to tackle this issue will ensure that every child in Edinburgh gets the best possible start in life,” Mr Godzik added.
Liam McArthur, the Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the figures were worrying.
“I do not doubt the commitment of ministers and teachers to battling racism but these new figures show that we have a long way to go,” he said.
“Over the past five years we have made real progress in tackling racism but the fact that progress seems to have stalled is a concern.
“Addressing these issues starts with education. The fact that so many racist incidents have been reported at Scottish schools over the past two years is a reality check for those who thought that the fight against prejudice was already won.”
In Glasgow, the biggest local authority in Scotland, 28 racist incidents were reported in secondaries in 2011 and 46 in 2012, plus 92 and 90 in primary schools.
At first, the city was widely reported as not having provided a response to the FOI request, leading to speculation about the tally, and a spokeswoman said the council had asked the Scottish Liberal Democrats to issue a correction to the media.
“We take any incidents of this nature seriously but for Glasgow’s size the figures are encouraging in terms of a long-term trend. Over the last five years we have made a lot of progress,” she said.