21/02/2012 12:11 GMT

Primary Pupils As Young As Nine Excluded From School For Racist Abuse, Investigation Finds

Primary school pupils as young as nine are being excluded from class for racist abuse, an investigation has revealed, prompting charities to call for greater guidance on how to deal with racism at school.

The nine-year-old was suspended for half a day for physical attacks, racist jokes and verbal abuse, according to the Surrey Comet.

The local Kingston paper conducted an investigation into racist abuse in the area's schools and found 14 children were suspended from school in the last year in the borough alone.

A spokesperson from Kingston Council said: "We, together with school governors, have a duty to create and implement strategies to prevent and address racism.

"All staff should see dealing with racist incidents as an important part of their professional duties. There should be an appreciation of the serious implications that racial harassment can have for the wellbeing of the school and the community.

"Openness about incidents is encouraged. All schools promote racial tolerance through their inclusive ethos and the pastoral curriculum."

In 2011, teachers logged more than 10,000 incidents nationally involving primary school students making racist insults or derogatory comments about homosexuals during the previous year.

Anastasia de Waal, chair of Family Lives, told The Huffington Post UK the answer to eradicating all types of bullying in schools was twofold.

"Firstly to build resilience in children so they are able to resist bullies; secondly to work with children and families of children who bully to change their behaviour.

"Racist bullying undoubtedly still goes on and is an issue of concern to parents. In a survey, Family Lives, conducted last year, one parent highlighted racist bullying as the most important thing they would ask the government to act on."

She added: "We are concerned that with the devolution of power down to individual school level and a resistance to issuing guidance from central government, some schools may be left in the dark about the current best practice to tackling bullying in schools."

Meanwhile Laura Pidcock, community education worker at Show Racism the Red Card, agreed there was a "lack of central agenda" for anti-racism training" to ensure teachers felt confident in dealing with racism-related issues.

"Teachers have huge responsibilities in their role and sometimes the time and space to deal with the prejudices of their pupils is overshadowed by deadlines, exams and curriculum delivery," she told HuffPost UK.

"If a racist incident does occur and is reported it can sometimes be handled in the wrong way in an attempt to show a zero tolerance approach. For example, if a young person is excluded from a school for using a racist word and not given the education to understand why the word is racist, this could result in further exacerbating the situation.

"Young people need to be given a safe space to understand the historical and contemporary manifestations of racism before they can truly understand the power of words or actions."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: WWe want to tackle all forms of bullying, particularly bullying motivated by prejudice and we have strengthened teachers’ powers to enable them to take tough action.

“Different schools face different issues, so they must develop their own robust strategies, and clearly communicate them to parents and pupils.”