Playground spats ‘blown into racism’

By Ian Dunt

Playground spats are being blown into instances of full-blown racism, a civil liberties group has found.

The Manifesto Group said there have been 250,000 racist incidents in schools since 2002, but that the requirement to catalogue them wastes teachers’ time and exaggerates childhood behaviour.

The group’s report, The Myth of Racist Kids, found that of 5,000 incidents in Yorkshire schools in 2006/07, the majority were in primary schools. Similarly, in Essex, most incidents occurred when children were between the ages of nine and 11.

This led the group to conclude many racist incidents were being reported about children who were too young to even understand what the word meant.

Schools in England and Wales have to report ‘racist incidents’ under the Race Relations Act 2000, but the Manifesto Group argued this turned teachers into police officers, with the requirement that they fill in forms documenting name-calling.

“The obligation on schools to report these incidents wastes teachers’ time, interferes in children’s space in the playground, and undermines teachers’ ability to deal with problems in their classrooms,” said author Adrian Hart.

“Worse, such anti-racist policies can create divisions where none had existed, by turning everyday playground spats into ‘race issues’.

“Most of these ‘racist incidents’ are just kids falling out. They don’t need re-educating out of their prejudice – they and their teachers need to be left alone.”