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Teachers failing to protect young eastern Europeans from racism post Brexit vote, researchers say

Eleanor Busby
Secondary school pupils account for 81 per cent of permanent exclusions: PA

Teachers have failed to protect eastern European pupils from racism and xenophobia since the Brexit vote, according to a new study.

Most of the bullying has been led by teenagers in secondary schools in England and Scotland, rather than on the street or public transport, researchers at the universities of Strathclyde, Plymouth and Durham found.

One student reported that they were followed around by a group of pupils at school who chanted “Ukip” and told them to “f*** off” back to their country.

Another said they had rocks thrown at them and had possessions stolen because they were Polish, as well as suffering verbal abuse.

Some students said teachers failed to stop the abuse – and some became the perpetrators.

One said a teacher called him “Poliski boy”, while another teenager claimed that an examiner at school gave them a low grade in a presentation because of their accent.

“The teachers hear the racist, sexist comments made by students, but choose to ignore them. Or even better, they laugh along,” one student added.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 eastern European secondary school pupils in England and Scotland.

Their findings will be released at the European Sociological Association conference in Manchester.

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More than three in four (77 per cent) of the pupils have experienced racism, xenophobia and bullying – and nearly half have experienced or witnessed a rise in incidents since the Brexit referendum in 2016, the research found.

The findings come after The Independent revealed this month that the number of hate crimes in schools and colleges in the West Midlands has surged by more than 50 per cent in just one year.

Daniela Sime, from the University of Strathclyde, said the incidents “are not always taken seriously by teachers” and yet they have a direct impact on pupils’ mental health and sense of belonging.

She added: “The role of teachers, who were often said to be bystanders and did not intervene, or in some situations become perpetrators themselves, emerged as a profoundly important dimension of young people’s everyday experiences of marginalisation. Teachers were, on occasions, not only discriminatory in their practices, by ignoring young people’s presence in class, but also racist in the views openly expressed during lessons or through ignoring incidents of racism they overheard.”


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In the vast majority of cases, young people said they did not report incidents because teachers knew and did not act to counter the culture of racism and xenophobia, Dr Sime said.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said: “The vast majority of teachers are utterly committed to protecting their students from racism and they work extremely hard to encourage respect and tolerance at a time when our wider society seems to be worryingly divided.

“The incidents reported in this survey are horrifying and unacceptable, and any teacher who failed to intervene to stop racist abuse, let alone colluding in it, would be guilty of serious professional misconduct.”

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