407 racist or hate cases in schools

Pirniehall Primary pupils paint the pavement at the school gates for an anti-bullying initiative. Picture: Esme Allen
Pirniehall Primary pupils paint the pavement at the school gates for an anti-bullying initiative. Picture: Esme Allen
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MORE than one incident of racism or homophobia is reported every day at city primary schools, new figures reveal.

Teachers have reported 407 cases of behaviour that could be deemed either racially or sexually abusive by four to ten-year-old children over the last two academic years – the equivalent of just 380 formal school days. Incidents are falling – from 60 reports of homophobia in 2011-12 to just 26 one year later.

The number of racist episodes also fell from 175 to 145 over the same period.

Yet despite this, parent groups have branded the data “alarming” – given the young age of the children involved – and the potentially alarming future scenario it spells.

Lindsay Law, parent representative on the council’s education committee, said the age of children involved was startling.

She said: “It is quite a large number of incidents to begin with but it may be that one school may see ten such incidents in a few months and then the issue is resolved.

“And if you average out the figures across 88 primary schools in Edinburgh, the number becomes much less alarming than it first appears with less than two incidents a year per school. However, this is still fairly alarming because you would imagine there would be nothing like this occurring in primary schools.”

The council has drawn up a blueprint to tackle unacceptable behaviour in future.

It includes awareness training and ensuring anti-abuse policies are enforced.

Despite this, Foysol Choudhury, chairman of anti-racism charity Edinburgh and Lothians Equality Council, said the figures were “unacceptably high” and stressed that bigotry in primary schools “cannot be tolerated”.

He said: “It is not clear where children learn these prejudiced views. However, parents, teachers and the community organisations must work together to protect children from views which are the basis of hate crimes.

“The educational authorities are aware of these figures. Every effort should be made to institute courses and sanctions in schools which will further reduce such prejudices in 
children.

“All children have the right to human dignity and it is up to us all to stop this injustice in our schools.”

Gay campaign groups rate Edinburgh City Council as the best Scottish local authority at tackling homophobic abuse and it is ranked among the top for recording racist incidents by the Coalition for Race Equality and Rights.

Equality campaigner Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, said: “Recording incidents of homophobic bullying and language is a vital first step in identifying the scale of the problem in schools.”

Education chiefs have praised the “positive work” taking place to “tackle discrimination and bullying” in schools which they say is reflected in the decline in recorded incidents.

Education convener Councillor Paul Godzik said: “Everyone agrees that 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 and young person in Edinburgh feels safe and respected.”