DOZENS of pupils were excluded from schools in Oxfordshire for racist bullying last year.

New figures from the Department for Education reveal that schools in the county excluded students 62 times for racist abuse in 2018-19.

This is up from 47 in the previous academic year, and Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate says a national rise in the number of exclusions due to racism is a concern.

All the exclusions were fixed-term – also known as suspensions – where a pupil is temporarily removed. The statistics include abuse by children at state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the county.

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It was a similar picture across the rest of England, where pupils were excluded for racist bullying on 4,900 occasions last year – a record high, and up from 4,300 in 2017-18.

Racial bullying is a type of racism where someone’s bullying focuses on a person’s race, ethnicity or culture.

Owen Jones, head of education at Hope Not Hate, said the figures were 'worrying' but that schools were trying hard to combat the problem.

He said: "From what we have seen, there is a much better concerted effort to clamp down and take it more seriously.

Oxford Mail:

"The process of exclusion is fraught for everyone involved, but the tolerance for that behaviour is reducing.

"Students of colour are having more confidence to speak up. It's not just about the 'n' word, it's about comments made throughout the day which make students feel unwelcome."

Mr Jones said racist abuse was a particular concern in rural and coastal schools, which have mostly white student populations, including many in Oxfordshire.

Most schools in Oxfordshire are now academies, run by independent trusts rather than the local authority, however the county council is still the official education authority for Oxfordshire.

A spokesman from the county council said: "Oxfordshire County Council provides a suite of anti-racist bullying resources to all schools.

"We also deliver anti-bullying ambassadors training to all schools in the county. Additionally, we offer restorative practice training to all schools.

"We have an anti-bullying email inbox for parents and children to seek support."

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Angela Wright, education development lead at anti-hate crime charity Stop Hate UK, said targets for racist incidents were becoming increasingly younger.

She said: "It is important to remember that behind every hate incident is an individual and family that are affected."

She added that the charity had seen a desire among students to 'make a change and call-out racism' following the death of George Floyd, a black man in America who died in police custody in May.

Overall, Oxfordshire schools excluded pupils 5,184 times in 2018-19 which is equivalent to 100 exclusions every week.

This was an increase of 14 per cent on the previous year, when they handed out 4,560 exclusions.

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The rise in total exclusions in Oxfordshire reflects the trend across England, where the figure rose by seven per cent to 446,000.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, has said she fears there will be further exclusions as a result of children struggling to adjust to being back at school after the coronavirus lockdown.

She said: "Excluding a child makes them more vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs and less likely to leave education with the qualifications they need to succeed."

A Department for Education spokesman said permanent exclusion should be a last resort.

He added: “We know that some pupils will return to school in September having experienced loss or adversity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which is why we have also provided guidance for school leaders on how to re-engage these pupils and create the right classroom environment to help them thrive.”