Edinburgh Council told to employ more black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and treat racism in schools more seriously than bullying
BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) pupils have told education bosses to employ more people of colour and stop classing racism in the same league as playground bullying - after more than 1,700 racist incidents were reported over a nine-year period.
Youngsters from charity Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS) called on councillors and officials for more action to address racism and prejudice in the Capital’s schools and let young people lead the change.
Research from the group has found that less than half of female BAME young people believe that their school promotes an open and diverse culture. A study found that only 13 per cent of boys and four per cent of girls believe that teachers at their school are aware of challenges relating to racism and discrimination.
The group said there was “strong evidence of under-reporting” or racism in Edinburgh schools after almost one in three girls strongly disagreed that if they experienced a racist incident at school, they would be able to tell their teacher.
Edinburgh City Council data available from 2008 to 2017 shows that there have been 516 racist incidents reported in secondary schools and 1,202 in primary schools. There have been 345 homophobic incidents across primary and secondary schools in the Capital and 3,334 bullying incidents class as non-specific.
An IYS young ambassador, told councillors that BAME youngsters wanted to “make sure that Edinburgh is the leading city to take action on racism in Scottish schools”.
She added: “We see the best efforts of some teachers to stop bullying but the work is not consistent. Racism is not and must not be treated the same as a bullying incident. Schools are not responding how they should.
“Bullying is like picking on someone or hitting them or giving them funny faces or calling them stupid names – but racist bullying is picking on individuals that are black, brown, of colour – as an ethnic minority. Racial bulling is different from bullying and it can’t be treated the same.”
Khaleda Noon, founder of IYS, added: “Leaders often forget that it is a criminal act to be racist against someone. These young people are facing many barriers and they really have to be treated like a victim – often, that isn’t the case. Our young people definitely need to know how to report it effectively in a whole-school approach.
“If you don’t have lived experience, you truly don’t understand what it’s like to be hated because of the colour of your skin or the faith that you believe in. I might know one or two youth workers in the whole of Edinburgh who are of colour – that’s ridiculous really.”
Council officials admitted that racism training “isn’t having the reach and impact that we would like” and acknowledged “there’s more work to be done to promote equalities”.
Vice convener of education, children and families, Cllr Alison Dickie, who is also an IYS ambassador, told councillors that “too often we are afraid to have honest conversations” about issues including racism.
She added: “Whilst 28 per cent of our pupils come from ethnic minority backgrounds, only two per cent of our teachers and 3.4 per cent of our PSAs do, and there is one community and lifelong learning officer. In response, a working group will now agree actions to grow the diversity of role models in our workforce.
“Work is now underway to explore the high racist incidents recorded in comparison to other categories, as well as concerns about under-reporting. Core to all progress though is placing BAME young people with lived experience at the heart of all decision making.”