Racism reports rise in Suffolk schools

MORE than three racist incidents are being reported each day in Suffolk schools, it has emerged.

Laurence Cawley

MORE than three racist incidents are being reported each day in Suffolk schools, it has emerged.

Figures released by Suffolk County Council show the number of racist incidents recorded has risen 26% in the last five years - from 501 in 2004/2005 to 636 last year.

The steepest rise has been in high schools where racist reports have increased from 116 in 2004/2005 to 261 last year.

Suffolk County Council claims the rise is down to better reporting, more ethnic minority pupils per se and a growing confidence in schools that incidents will be dealt with.

However, some in the county claim many more racist incidents are going unreported.

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Craig Dearden-Phillips, Liberal Democrat member of the county council's children, schools and young people's services committee, said the local education authority and schools needed to “up their efforts” to combat racism.

He said even despite the increase in reports, he feared the true levels of racism in the county's schools went unreported.

“I think the numbers seem pretty low. We live in a period where people are quite rightly more aware of these incidents and more willing to report them. That is good.

“We are obviously taking them seriously. That too is good. Relatively speaking a lot of it is going unreported and a lot of it will be under the radar and that is not good.

“We need to up our efforts.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said it had been monitoring racist incidents since 1993-1994 - longer than many urban authorities.

He said successive guidance issued to schools on dealing with racist incidents had helped give “further impetus” to reporting racist incidents.

He said: “Since 1996-97 we have insisted on a 100% return from schools, long before the Race Relations Amendment Act made this compulsory, which has further encouraged reporting.

“The schools with an increase in the numbers of reported incidents state that their reporting systems have improved. “They have made it clear to all staff (teaching & non-teaching) that all incidents have to be reported which has led to more incidents being reported.

“Also, schools report that pupils, not only victims of incidents but also their friends and onlookers, now have the confidence to report incidents because they know that they will be dealt with.”

The council also states the number of children from ethnic minorities had risen - from 8.7% in 2008 to 12.7% last year - which made a “numerical increase in incidents likely”.