Eleanor Harding, Daily Mail, January 10, 2016
Primary school children are being kicked out of classes at the rate of more than ten every week for racist behaviour, government figures reveal.
The figure, which is at a six-year high, even includes children from schools’ Reception year, which is for children aged just four and five.
All schools are obliged to deal with racist incidents ‘effectively’ under government guidelines on promoting tolerance, with those failing to do so penalised with sanctions.
Infants can be suspended from school for racist words or bullying which is considered to be racially motivated.
The statistics for the school year that ended in the summer of 2014 show there were 430 occasions when a child aged 11 or younger was suspended from school for racist behaviour.
This is up 23 per cent on the figure for the previous year when 350 such incidents were recorded.
With a typical school year amounting to 190 days in the classroom, it means more than two young children are disciplined for displaying serious racist behaviour every school day.
Government officials said tackling racist bullying would make children feel safer at school, but yesterday critics said the punishments may be disproportionate.
Christopher McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘Very often young children will blurt out comments that adults may consider racist but which the child may say in all innocence.
‘Threatening infants with suspension or other punishment if they unknowingly say something considered inappropriate can be both intimidating and disturbing for impressionable children.
‘It can create an atmosphere of fear that is damaging to a child’s long-term development. Greater sensitivity, not rigid rule enforcement, needs to be exercised in these matters.’
Children suspended for racist behaviour included six cases from Cornwall including one where a child called another pupil a “n*****”.
Birmingham City Council revealed it had one case where a nine-year-old boy was permanently expelled from school for a range of bad behaviour including racist abuse of fellow pupils.
Others excluded were another nine-year-old boy, from Solihull, who got in trouble for repeatedly using racist language.
Meanwhile, three children at schools in East Sussex were excluded for racist abuse and physically attacking other students.
Brent Council, in London, said it handed a suspension to an eight-year-old pupil for racist abuse.
In Barking and Dagenham the council revealed its schools suspended eight children for racist behaviour including five who were aged seven to nine.
Kent Council, which is one of the largest local authorities in England, said it saw 18 occasions where children aged seven to 11 were given fixed term exclusions for racist behaviour.
In West Sussex a girl aged six was sent home from school after she was found guilty of racist behaviour.
Simon Woolley, director of the anti-racist group Operation Black Vote, said: ‘In most cases young children who repeatedly use racist language at school are often mimicking the language they hear at home.
‘Better a child learns early on that this is unacceptable rather than they get sacked when they’re adults at work.’
Under government guidelines, all schools must show they are promoting fundamental British Values by encouraging pupils to regard people of all faiths, races and cultures with respect and tolerance.
They must also safeguard children from both verbal and physical bullying by their peers.
Schools have been penalised heavily by education regulator Ofsted for either having too many racist incidents or for failing to tackle racist incidents effectively.
A Department for Education spokesman, said: ‘Racism has no place in our schools. We want to make sure every child feels safe at school and is able to learn without disruption, so they can fulfil their potential.
‘Schools are required to have a behaviour policy in place with measures to tackle bullying, and they are already held to account by Ofsted.
‘We are also going further by appointing behaviour expert Tom Bennett to lead a review to ensure new teachers are fully trained in dealing with disruption and consider all of the challenges of managing behaviour in 21st century schools.’