Racism is when someone is discriminated against (singled out) because of their race, the colour of their skin, their nationality, their accent or first language, or their ethnic or national origin.

A racist incident is any incident, which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person (Stephen Lawrence enquiry: Bullying Around Racism, Religion and Culture, DfES 2006)

What can racism in school look like?

  • Physical assault and harassment
  • Verbal abuse – threats, name calling
  • Visual- racist propaganda such as posters, notices or graffiti
  • Incitement of others to behave in a racist manner
  • Segregation- exclusion, isolation, refusal to cooperate because of their colour, ethnicity, religion or language barrier
  • Cyber- using social media/DM to promote or incite racism
  • Institutional racism which may (unintentionally) disadvantage less dominant ethnic and cultural groups – for example biased rules or curriculum

What are schools' statutory duties?

Race Relations Amendment Act 2000
This act set out the duty to promote race equality. Schools must aim to:
Eliminate unlawful racial discrimination. Promote equality of opportunity. Promote good race relations between people of different racial groups
Equality Act 2010 (Part 6, Chapter 1: Schools)
A school must not discriminate against a pupil: In the way, it provides education for the pupil. In the way, it affords the pupil access to a benefit, facility or service by not providing education for the pupil
Ofsted: A school will be judged Inadequate if they do not promote equality and tackle discrimination.

What should schools do?

  • All members of staff should be aware of the school equality policy and know how to respond to and report racist incidents.
  • Ensure that pupils and parents, as well as the wider community, are aware of your school’s values and how you respond to and report racism.
  • Be responsive by challenging racism, supporting the victims (and the aggressors) and reporting the incidents, using the BPHI report form.
  • Make reporting accessible to students and parents, encourage witnesses to report incidents.
  • Involve parents when responding to racism and use restorative justice strategies to support the victims and aggressors.
  • Be preventative by planning anti-racism and diversity into the curriculum.

How do practitioners know if the incident should be reported?

All staff should have access to training so they feel comfortable in recognising, challenging and responding to racism. In deciding if an incident is prejudice-related, practitioners should consider whether:

  • pupils alleged to be responsible are known to hold racist or views or to engage in racist behaviour or are part of a friendship group known to hold racist views
  • pupils were wearing outward signs of belonging to a racist culture (for example BNP insignia)
  • the language, clothing or appearance of the person attacked clearly identified him or her as belonging a particular religious or cultural group
  • there was no, or only slight, provocation

Just because an incident is alleged or perceived to be racist does not mean that it is racist but it does mean that it must be recorded and investigated. Whether or not the pupil(s) responsible intended their behaviour to be racist is irrelevant. Of course, when it comes to dealing with an incident, their intentions and attitudes are an important consideration but at the stage of initial recording and investigating, their attitudes, motivation and awareness are not the main issue.

Key information and contacts:

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