Teachers have urged the government to issue new guidance to schools on how to deal with hate crimes, after record numbers of reports of racially motivated abuse and attacks in the past year.
A study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that more than a fifth of teachers believe their pupils have fallen victim to hate crime or speech because of their ethnic background, race or sexual orientation.
Almost three-quarters of the 345 respondents said they believed some children were picked on because they were different from the “norm” while 18 per cent thought bullies were abusing children because they were perceived as poor or of a lower socio-economic status.
Dr Mary Bousted, the ATL’s general secretary, said that the government needed “to produce updated guidance that including discussion of hate crime and speech, and encourages critical-thinking”.
The findings of the research were published to coincide with a debate on hate crime at the union’s annual conference in Liverpool last week. A third of respondents said they had witnessed a child being bullied in the past year, and more than a fifth said bullying in their school occurs on a weekly basis.
One teacher described in the report how a bully made a video slandering another child and published it on YouTube, before continuing the bullying on Facebook. This prompted other children to join in, and bully different pupils.
At another school, a member of the support staff reported hearing a pupil taunting another with the words “my God is better than yours”, while a head of department in a further education college said that “one student called another a terrorist as a joke”.
More than eight out of 10 – 84 per cent – of those asked said education about hate crime and speech and discrimination needed to be included in mandatory PSHE and tackled in age-appropriate relationships and sex education.
While 53 per cent said that their school was supportive when they reported incidents of hate crime or speech, a third said they hadn’t received any training on how to deal with it and would welcome more guidance and training.
During the debate on the issue, Helen Porter, a member of the ATL Executive’s Equalities Committee, told delegates that, as educators, teachers “must educate children to understand that hate crime and hate speech have far-reaching consequences”.
She continued: “How can children not yet old enough to vote commit hate speech against (what they perceive to be) weaker children with any sense of justification? We have to get the message across that this is not tolerated in our society. But education staff need training to be able to tackle this effectively.”
The report found that almost a third of respondents thought training in how to tackle hate crime and speech should be statutory.
Birmingham teacher Rosanna Rackley told delegates that it had become acceptable in the UK to “dehumanise” migrants and asylum-seekers through hate language”. She added: “School should be the safest place for a child to be themselves and to grow and develop.”
Meanwhile, research findings released at the NASUWT annual conference in Manchester revealed that a fifth of teachers have heard about or experienced foreign-born colleagues being verbally abused about their nationality on school premises since the referendum last June.
The study involved 800 British teachers and also found that 54 per cent felt unsupported in discussing Brexit with their students, though they believed schools had an important role to play in preparing young people. Only seven per cent believe that the curriculum is helping pupils prepare for Brexit.
Elsewhere, half of the teachers fear Brexit will distract the government from dealing with the real problems the country faces, including pressing education issues such as teachers’ job security.
And 41 per cent are worried that Brexit will have a negative impact upon the education system, while 43 per cent are worried about its impact upon jobs and working conditions. Six out of 10 are concerned about the impact on investment in schools.
Chris Keates, the NASUWT’s general secretary, said: “This research demonstrates the genuine concern among teachers about what Brexit will mean for their jobs, working conditions and rights at work. The survey suggests that the recruitment and retention crisis which is engulfing schools will not be addressed if Brexit results in reduced levels of investment in education.
“The research confirms that schools and teachers need immediate support in order to help educate today’s children and young people for a future where the UK is no longer a member of the European Union.
“With one in five teachers reporting witnessing or experiencing foreign-born colleagues being subjected to verbal abuse because of their nationality, it is also abundantly clear that urgent action is needed to demonstrate that such abuse is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
The NASUWT figures show that 62 per cent of teachers voted to remain in the EU in the June 23 the referendum, although 64 per cent now say they would do so if the vote was re-run.
More from the union conferences
For more reports from the debates at the ATL, NASUWT and NUT annual conferences, which all took place during the Easter period, see: