We must stop looking the other way on racism in Edinburgh schools - Steve Cardownie

Scottish schools have reported that over 2,200 racist incidents were recorded between the academic years of 2017/18 and 2019/20 and, so far, it does not look like a drastic reduction is on the horizon.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 7:11 am
There have been shocking reported incidents in Edinburgh schools

Glasgow topped this poll of shame with 642 but Edinburgh came a close second with 490, a clear demonstration of the work that needs to be done to eradicate this distasteful practice.

These figures have alarmed anti-racism campaigners and have led the charity, Show Racism the Red Card, to call for additional support for teachers to help identify and deal with the issue. The charity has identified that 32 per cent of pupils that they have worked with have experienced or witnessed racism in Scottish school classrooms and playgrounds.

Edinburgh’s education committee convener, Councillor Ian Perry, has gone on record to reinforce the council’s position that bullying in schools will not be tolerated and is acutely aware that racist bullying is particularly insidious. He has pledged to root it out and has referred to the council’s guidance on this matter as an indication of just how seriously it is being taken.

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However, despite this, accusations of racist abuse in Edinburgh’s schools are still being made with unfailing regularity with the council investigating one high school in particular where students claim that staff, yes staff, called pupils “monkeys” and “slaves” amid 40 separate complaints.

Councillor Alison Dickie, vice-Convener of the city’s education committee called the current school wide situation for what it was when she said “I am shocked. But there is no doubt that racism exists and we shouldn’t be defensive about that. Racism exists and we must change this.”

All stakeholders in Edinburgh schools, particularly parents and guardians, must shoulder some of the responsibility for rooting this conduct out and if it is proved that staff have been indulging in this behaviour, there should be nothing short of dismissal for “gross misconduct” if confidence in the process is in any way to be restored. The current school closures due to the pandemic lockdown can only serve to mask the problem and complacency cannot be allowed to set in if the council is to be taken at it’s word.

Out with schools instances of racism, particularly Chinese related hate crimes, have risen by 50 per cent over the last year according to Police Scotland which has been closely monitoring the situation - and that is only the incidents that have been reported, with many more going unrecorded. The police have reached the conclusion (obvious?) that this is “probably related” to people blaming coronavirus on China and that cases tended to worsen when lockdown restrictions were more stringent.

Between January and September 2020 Police Scotland said that there were 321 Chinese related hate crimes, up from 219 in the same period of 2019. Glasgow recorded 99 followed by Edinburgh with 65 which is unsettling to say the least.

Racism in all its forms is irrational should be tackled wherever it raises its ugly head but still too many of us are prepared to look the other way.

Thankfully there are also those of us who recognise it for what it is and are prepared to meet the challenge and the threat that it poses.