Big rise in schools reporting racism, homophobia and disability prejudice - is Brexit to blame?

PUBLISHED: 10:21 06 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:58 06 December 2018

Dozens more schools in Norfolk reported incidents of discrimination to the county council in 2017-18 than the previous year Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dozens more schools in Norfolk reported incidents of discrimination to the county council in 2017-18 than the previous year Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto


The number of Norfolk schools reporting prejudice including racism and homophobia has increased, it can today be revealed - and Brexit is thought to be among the reasons.

Nick O'Brien, education lead for Norwich Pride Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNick O'Brien, education lead for Norwich Pride Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Data obtained under the freedom of information act have revealed 149 of the county’s schools, academies and education settings reported incidents of prejudice in the 2017-18 school year.

This figure is almost a 50pc increase on the previous year and the highest since County Hall started recording these figures by academic year, in 2015-16.

However, while the number of schools reporting incidents relating to race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and disability increased, the number of overall incidents slightly fell, from 378 reported in 2016-17, to 335 reported in 2017-18.

Nick O’Brien, assistant headteacher at Neatherd High School in Dereham, said divisions in the political world were largely to blame.

He said: “I think generally young people are much more tolerant than their parents and grandparents were, however, they are a reflection of society as a whole. We need to look at ourselves as well as our children.

“There is a lot of division in society at the moment, issues such as Brexit and immigration are constantly in the news, so it is no surprise to see an increase.”

Mr O’Brien, who is also education lead for Norwich Pride, said the most effective way of addressing this is through educating youngsters about its impact and better promoting empathy and ethics in schools.

He added: “I’m really passionate about the idea of schools being better equipped to teach about these issues.

“No school would have just one lesson on algebra to get students ready for exams, but often the issue of discrimination will just be a single lesson or assembly then not touched again. There needs to be a far more repetitive approach.

“My experience has generally been positive, however you do get isolated incidents which need to be dealt with.”

Since 2015, the county council has expanded the type of prejudicial incidents it keeps record of.

Previously, it had kept record of incidents surrounding race, however for the past three years this has been expanded to include those around any of the characteristics protected by the Equality Act of 2010. These include religious belief, sexual orientation and disabilities.

Behind the figures

Norfolk County Council began collecting data for incidents of discrimination by academic year in 2015-16.

Previously, its reporting period was between March and April. In the run-up to tying the statistics with school years, figures for 2014-15 only analysed between April 2015 and the end of the summer term.

While County Hall strongly encourages schools to provide data, there is no legal requirement to do so, meaning the 149 that did respond may not have been the only to experience incidents.

Previously, schools were encouraged to report incidents on an ongoing basis, however, as of 2017-18, they were asked to complete an annual return.

The figures provided were as follows:

2013-14 (March to April): 261 incidents across 82 schools

2014-15 (April until end of term) 72 incidents across 47 schools

2015-16 (academic year): 226 incidents across 83 schools

2016-17 (academic year): 378 incidents across 101 schools

2017-18 (academic year): 336 incidents across 149 schools

National attention

The issue of discrimination in schools was thrust into the national spotlight in recent weeks, following an incident at Almondbury Community School, near Huddersfield.

A video was widely shared online of a playground altercation between two students in the Yorkshire town, one of which was a Syrian refugee.

The footage showed one boy pulling another to the ground before pouring water in his mouth.

Following the incident, a 16-year-old boy has been issued with a summons in connection with the incident, which happened on October 25, and is due to appear at Leeds Youth Court.

After the video circulated on social media, a fundraising page was set up to support the Syrian boy’s family, which raised more than £100,000.

It also saw home secretary Sajid Javid reveal he had been targeted by bullies while he attended school, telling BBC Radio 4, the incident had brought memories flooding back for him.

Other News

One of the county’s worst performing healthcare trusts could merge with Norfolk’s best in a bid to bring together care in the community.

Yesterday, 17:35

Norfolk’s police chief has said he will make a case for more police officers on the street, but it would mean a rise in council tax.

Yesterday, 17:18

One in every five recycling trucks in Norfolk is contaminated as people are putting the “wrong things” in their bins, councils have warned.

Yesterday, 17:06

A man has sustained injuries and another was arrested following an alleged road rage incident between two lorry drivers.

Most Read

Yesterday, 16:01

Parents at a Norfolk academy have described their anger after finding out that if their children had missed a day at school they would not be able to take part in a non-uniform day.

Read more
Yesterday, 10:12

Ambulances have been head butted, kicked, and had blue lights ripped off in shocking acts of vandalism on the emergency vehicles - sometimes while crews have been trying to treat patients.

Read more
Thu, 09:34

A 46-year-old shop assistant was racially abused by a customer in Great Yarmouth.

Read more

Plans for a former pub to be turned into a luxury tobacconist have been put under fire by a nearby health centre, with bosses arguing it would “give out entirely the wrong message”.

Read more
Mon, 18:00

School trips usually involve taking children to see one of Shakespeare’s great plays or visiting a historic museum.

Read more

Local Weather

Sunshine and Showers

Sunshine and Showers

max temp: 4°C

min temp: 2°C

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the Great
Yarmouth Mercury

e-edition today


Newsletter Sign Up

Great Yarmouth Mercury weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy