More than 87,000 incidents of racist bullying have been reported in schools between 2007 and 2011, it has been revealed, but the real concern is those which go unreported.

The figures, obtained by the BBC after submitting an FOI request, show 87,915 cases ranging from name-calling to physical abuse.

Birmingham came top of the list with 5,752 cases, followed by Leeds with 4,690 while Carmarthenshire in Wales recorded the lowest with five cases.

Birmingham City Council said the city always came out top on such lists as it is the largest council in the UK.

"We have a robust reporting system," a spokesperson told HuffPostUK. "We will of course support any school experiencing difficulties but they are becoming increasingly autonomous."

The last Labour government introduced guidance making it a requirement for schools to monitor and report all racist abuse incidents to their local authority. But the coalition has since removed the guidance, meaning schools do not have any duty to record or report such data. Additionally, with more schools converting to academies, they are no longer accountable to the local authority.

An anti-racist charity has expressed its concerns over schools moving towards academy status as they do not have the immediate support previously offered to them by local government officials.

Paul Kearns, UK office manager of Show Racism The Red Card, told HuffPostUK removing the local support network is a "very dangerous move" and described the government's scrapping of the guidance as "a backward step".

"As soon as schools come under government control instead of the local authority's, they may no longer be at the top of the priority list.

"Teaching unions have told us they feel it is a government issue," he said. "But as schools are moving towards academies, there will be many who set their own agenda, which may not include training their teachers to deal with racism. Pupils will have a varied experience depending on which school they attend."

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Kearns adds the real concern is not the incidents being reported but those going undetected.

"There is a fear of being seen as snitching. Pupils have to feel confident to report the bullying but the coalition taking a step back means this confidence, which is already so fragile, is taken away."

The charity recently conducted research into racist bullying at school, and asked around 600 children whether they would report the problem. Out of those who replied "No", the reasons they gave included:

  • "because if you do then find out it isnt racism you will feel stupid"
  • "Because it is so common and i am used to hearing it. i wouldnt know who to tell :)"
  • "There is som uch of it, I kind of wouldn't know where to start, and they are lots and lots of small cases"
  • "I get it quite alot and i'm used of it now, so to me it doesn't make a differenece whether they're racist to me or not"

Kearns continued to say: "Racist bullying is not just like ordinary bullying - it is an attack on them, their culture, their family, who they are. It goes far deeper than just what they look like.

"Students regress into themselves and find it very difficult to come forward.

"The system is failing them."

Kearns adds the charity's own research reveals racist incidents are under-reported.

"You need to take the figures released today with a pinch of salt. A rise in reported incidents does not reflect the rise in incidents."

The charity, which works with around 50,000 pupils in UK schools sees "many examples" where children don't feel comfortable in reporting racist bullying.

"A big problem is teachers are ill-equipped with the issues through no fault of their own. They are not taught how to deal with racist bullying when they are trained. Teaching unions have told us they want to train every teacher but there just aren't the resources."

The charity's publication concluded:

"Many [teachers] consider the best approach to be to adopt a colour-blind position of ignoring difference and attempting to treat all children the same. There is evidence of positive work being undertaken, however this appears in some part to be driven by a few committed individuals and there is a lack of evidence that the majority of institutions have made a serious attempt to embed race equality."

Leading education lawyer Salima Mawji, director at Match Solicitors said it was "concerning" the government had removed the reporting requirements

"By focusing schools on reporting incidents keeps the problem very much live and therefore capable of being dealt with. If there are no reporting requirements, does this mean that it is open to schools to brush the problem under the carpet?

"But severe sanctions on perpetrators, such as permanent exclusion, does not address the racist nature of that individual. It simply makes the issue another school’s problem. Sanctions imposed on students for racist abuse should involve an education on why racism is not and will not be tolerated in society."


If you need support call Bullying UK: 0808 800 2222 or

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