September 2016

The know zone

  • Leading curriculum change
    When we reflect on how quickly our world is evolving, it is no truism to say that what we design into our curriculum really matters says Suzanne O’Farrell. More
  • Carrots, sticks and Shanghai maths
    Julie McCulloch looks at the government’s latest initiative to introduce the South Asian ‘mastery’ approach to teaching maths in primary schools. More
  • Preventing hate
    Schools and colleges across Britain are seeing a rise in the levels of racism among pupils. Anna Cole looks at why and explains what leaders can do to combat hate. More
  • Exploring the evidence
    In the first of a regular research insights page, Matt Walker, from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), introduces how research evidence can help to improve schools and colleges, and influence policy. More
  • A vital network of support
    Focus on… Macmillan Cancer Support More
  • Adding value
    Centralisation – the key to achieving financial health and efficiency? More
  • Prevent duty
    Since July 2015, all schools and colleges have been subject to the Prevent duty. How has your institution dealt with this requirement and have there been any challenges? Here ASCL members have their say. More
  • Leader's surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Daily grind?
    Sam Ellis offers some tips for the out-of-town traveller in search of a bed for the night and decent food – although perhaps not an espresso. More
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Schools and colleges across Britain are seeing a rise in the levels of racism among pupils. Anna Cole looks at why and explains what leaders can do to combat hate.

Preventing hate

Prevent duty – before and after

Last year, I travelled the country delivering training to school and college leaders about what the Prevent duty and the duty to promote British values actually means.

It is difficult to gauge how the Prevent duty is being applied in schools as there is so little information in the public domain. We know from recent FoI requests (http:// that the first year saw a sharp rise in referrals to Channel (the government-funded voluntary de-radicalisation scheme). This summer the joint committee on human rights called for a review of the duty in education after hearing evidence that some schools may have been ‘over-enthusiastic’ with the duty and that young Muslims feel targeted because of their faith. Counter-terrorism police have told me that, to date, roughly three-quarters of school referrals relate to Islamist extremism and the remaining quarter to far-right extremism.

My experiences, after speaking to hundreds of school and college leaders over the last year, tells a different story.

Many leaders have told me that a wider problem they face in their institutions is a resurgence of the overt racism that existed in the Britain of my childhood.

In the weeks immediately after the referendum, hate crime reported to the police rose 42% and online hate crime reports increased fivefold. Mainstream and social media is awash with reports of racist abuse and Tell MAMA’s report on Islamophobia incidents in 2015 shows an increasing number of teenagers being sucked into far-right groups across the country – a frightening trend mirrored across Europe and the US.

In 2012, Show Racism the Red Card surveyed 6,000 English school children and found widespread misconceptions about the number of immigrants and non-white people living in England, as well as hostile and negative attitudes towards Muslims and those born overseas. The study found:

  • 28% believed jobs being taken by foreign workers may stop them reaching their goals.
  • 49% agreed that migration to the UK is out of control or is not being managed properly.
  • more than a third agreed with the statement ‘Muslims are taking over England’.
  • 60% believed ‘asylum seekers and immigrants are stealing our jobs’.
  • 35% agreed or partly agreed that ‘Muslims are taking over our country’.

This year we have seen politicians and others blame immigration for many of the country’s problems, the views and misconceptions of school children are likely to have become even more widespread and entrenched.

Add to this the rise in UK poverty, particularly child poverty. Official figures published in June 2016 by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that child poverty rose by approximately 200,000 in the last year alone. Of all children, in the region of 3.9 million (29%) are classed as being in poverty. This means that the scramble for public services such as health and education, and for resources such as housing and jobs, is now felt acutely by almost one-third of children in the UK.

The ethnic makeup of the population of England and Wales is changing. According to the 2011 census, the percentage of the total British population of all ages from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background is about 13%. However, the statistics produced by the DfE in 2015 show a different story in our schools: in English and Welsh state-funded primary schools more than 30% of pupils are from a BME background, in secondary schools this figure is 26% and in London pupils with a BME background represent 67% of the total.

Preventing a ‘race to the bottom’

So, what does all of this mean for schools and colleges? Safeguarding individual children vulnerable to radicalisation remains extremely important but the wider work is about how, in the current climate, schools and colleges can create and sustain a strong, inclusive, equalitiesdriven culture that celebrates difference and looks for what we have in common, using every opportunity to develop a pupil’s critical thinking skills.

To create this culture, schools and colleges must promote equalities under the Equality Act but they also need to find ways to create space for pupils and staff to feel heard and to debate and discuss the issues that matter to them: complex, emotive and controversial issues such as identity, belonging, values, politics, immigration, racism, discrimination, religion, poverty and alienation.

Schools and colleges must create a learning culture where these discussions can take place. Only by achieving this will we be able to develop robust resilience in children and young people that will safeguard them and prevent them from being drawn in to extremist and hate-filled narratives of any description.

It will be today’s children and young people who shape post-referendum Britain. Schools and colleges are at the forefront of preventing a race to the bottom in the narrative about the impact of immigration and place of migrants in the UK so that we are a multicultural country where all people are equal and valued. As leaders, you have an enormous task ahead to heal divisions and to create space for discussion and debate as you nurture the citizens of the future. This will not be easy, but it has never been more important.

Anna Cole is ASCL Parliamentary Specialist