Few exclusions over school racism cases

Oxford Mail: Andrew Hamilton Andrew Hamilton

A FRACTION of racist incidents reported in Oxfordshire schools result in a child being excluded from lessons, new figures show.

Teachers reported more than 2,000 racist incidents in Oxfordshire schools in the last four years.

But less than 10 per cent of the 2,086 incidents reported to Oxfordshire County Council resulted in a permanent or fixed term exclusion.

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, relate to the academic years from 2007/2008 up until 2010/2011 and involve more than 100 primary and secondary schools.

Among those was King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage.

Headteacher Simon Spiers said there were only two or three such incidents a year – but any racist incident, however minor, would always result in an exclusion.

He said: “It’s an automatic exclusion; we don’t debate about it.

“That sends the message out, but 99 per cent of the way we deal with it is educating the child afterwards as to why what they said caused offence and normally, once they realise that, they are very sorry about it.”

He said the length of exclusion would depend on the severity of the incident and would be discussed with governors.

“Some times people say things they don’t really understand or realise they are causing offence – that is usually a one day exclusion.

“But if people say things with more feeling, then the exclusion would be extended until we were happy that child actually understood what they had done and the seriousness of it.

He said the school would also get the victim and the culprit to sit down together afterwards, where appropriate.

Andrew Hamilton, headteacher at Eynsham’s Bartholomew School, said the school reported three to four incidents of a “very, very low level” each year.

Between 10 to 15 per cent of pupils at the school now are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Mr Hamilton said: “If a child uses an unfortunate term or an expletive, or calls someone a name, it is reported as a racist incident.

“If it arises we deal with it, and we have excluded students.”

He said racism and equality was tackled under the schools personal, social and health education programme.

The vast majority of the incidents related to verbal abuse.

There were also 73 over the four years which related to non- co-operation – including refusal to sit with or talk to people – and 86 of physical abuse.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said she did not believe there was a problem with racism in Oxfordshire schools.

She said: “I don’t think small children really recognise any race or colour apart from perhaps redheads.

“The only time I have ever witnessed it was in a primary school where I was a governor and the kids were ganging up on a little traveller child and it got sorted out very quickly.

“Children will always have a go at something – I was known as speccy four eyes.

“I think it is a very small number that involve genuine nastiness.”

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