Coalition for Racial Equality & Rights

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Racist incidents in Schools – Scotland needs a new approach

Scotland’s schools have recorded over 3,000 racist incidents in the past five years, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests. While this may seem shocking to some, we’re confident that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2012, CRER undertook detailed research into racist incident recording practices and policies in Scotland’s schools. What we found was a patchy, problematic range of approaches. Based on research carried out by Respectme and LGBT Youth Scotland for the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2015, little appears to have changed since then.

In our experience, two key problems make racist incident recording in Scotland’s schools ineffective. Firstly, a lack of understanding of the nature of racism and its impact in schools beyond direct cases of bullying; and secondly, disjointed recording processes and practices within schools.

Scotland’s education departments have had plenty of time to develop effective policy and practice in this area. Recording of all racist incidents in schools was a key recommendation of the Macpherson Report, the publication which cemented the definition of a racist incident as ‘Any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’ in 1999.

That understanding seems to have rolled back, replaced by a defensive arrogance which both misinterprets what racism means and puts more emphasis on pandering to white sensitivities about ‘being called racist’ than it does on protecting children from racism. This attitude persists despite the clear fact that it’s the incident (not the child or the school) which is being recorded as ‘racist’.

However, our 2012 research did find some examples of good policy making in local authority education departments on racist incident recording. This should be capitalised on at a national level so that children in all areas can benefit, putting an end to the current ‘post code lottery’ approach which makes it so difficult for parents in some areas to challenge schools’ failure to deal with racism.

In our experience, racism in schools is still a serious problem and we are not convinced that current approaches to tackling it are working. Even although we aren’t funded to provide advice services, CRER regularly hears from parents whose children have faced serious harassment, physical violence and psychological torment at the hands of their classmates. In many cases, these parents report being dismissed, belittled and (somewhat ironically) even bullied when they try to seek help for their children. And it’s not just school children who are affected. The majority of perpetrators of racist hate crimes in Scotland are young men who have recently been through the school system. If the system was working properly, they would know better.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement, Louis Kushnick (race equality activist and Professor Emeritus at Manchester University) put forward a strong argument for mandatory incident reporting as a tool for social change: “Do we want a society characterised by stupidity, bigotry and ignorance? Or do we want our children to be at ease with the world? ...If we don’t raise our children to be decent human beings, they’ll bring into school what they’re consuming elsewhere and no one will challenge it... If you don’t have monitoring you have no way of identifying the scale of the problem. And if you leave it up to schools, there’s no reward for flagging it up.” Our research supports that view.

The EHRC’s research from 2015 also demonstrated that while practice on race is mixed, most other forms of prejudice based incident aren’t recorded at all. But with no central guidance or collation of statistics to give momentum to this work, it’s perhaps little wonder that practice is often so poor. It’s time for Scotland to develop a national strategy on recording and responding to all forms of prejudice based incidents in schools. Our children’s wellbeing depends on it.

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1508

Election 2015:  Interview with Sanjoy Sen

Our latest Election 2015 blog interview features Sanjoy Sen, Scottish Conservative Candidate for Aberdeen North, who was inspired to stand for election after the Referendum campaign.

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Sanjoy is a chemical engineer and currently a self-employed consultant specialising in the oil and gas sectors. He got involved in politics after the referendum campaign.

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Election 2015:  Interview with Pramod Subbaraman

In the second of our Election 2015 blog interviews, Pramod Subbaraman (Liberal Democrat candidate for Edinburgh South) shares his views on race equality in the political world.

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Pramod explains: "I was born and raised in Southern India and moved to the UK in 2005 at the age of 28. I moved at that time as I was invited by the Department of Health to help fill the shortage of dentists in the English NHS. It was not an easy ride as there were a lot of hurdles erected for immigrants from outside the EU and that did take its toll, but I jumped over those hurdles, occasionally knocking a few and had to start again in places. I started working in England and then moved to Scotland in 2013. I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2010 and am now the candidate for the General Election to represent the people of Edinburgh South". 

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2753

In the run up to the 2015 General Election on 7th May, we’re interviewing some of Scotland’s minority ethnic MP candidates to find out what inspires them in their political life. Our first interviewee is George Jabbour, Scottish Conservative and Unionist candidate for Inverclyde.


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Biography

George was born in Syria. He spent the first 22 years of his life there. After graduating from Damascus University with a Civil Engineering degree, George came to Britain in 2004 to study for a Master’s degree in Finance at Imperial College London. George said: “Britain is the country with whose values and principles I identified the most”.

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Rehana Faqir

The quotes that inspire me:

“I have been working for so many years and women still don’t get equal pay”

“Women's chains have been forged by men, not by anatomy.” ~ Estelle R Ramsey.

“Women are not inherently passive or peaceful, we're not inherently anything but human.” ~ Robin Morgan.

“If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?” ~ Mary Astell

“Nobody objects to a women being a good writer or a sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, a good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-dresses, well groomed and unaggressive.”  ~ Marya Mannes

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