Racism in secondary schools in Wales


Our research on racism in secondary schools in Wales

Children’s views

Through our research, “Take it seriously”: children’s experiences of racism within secondary schools, we heard that minority ethnic children and young people across Wales experience racism in many ways – from microaggressions to verbal and physical abuse, and that these experiences are almost a normal part of life for them.

We also heard about many reasons, illustrated by personal experiences, of why learners may not report racist incidents, including:

  • the normalisation of racism
  • not knowing what to expect if they do report
  • fear of being seen as a ‘grass’
  • fear of escalation and retaliation or things getting worse if they do report
  • fear of the process being emotionally draining and burdensome
  • not expecting much to happen if they report

This means that overall, on balance, children feel that it’s usually not seen as worth reporting racist incidents. This suggests that those incidents that do get reported are really just the visible tip of a very large iceberg.

Teachers’ views

On the whole, teachers reported feeling underequipped and unconfident to respond to racism. They would like more practical and clearer guidance, as well as ongoing support on how they should respond to this evolving issue.

Our full report

Read our full report (opens as a PDF in a new window)

Ethnic diversity in Wales

Children in Wales are an increasingly ethnically diverse group, with almost 13% (over 50,000) of all school pupils coming from ‘Any other ethnic background’ other than ‘White British’.

There is considerable regional variation, ranging from 34.4% in Cardiff schools to 4.1% in Anglesey schools. Despite this regional variation, ethnic diversity can be seen in learner populations in all areas of Wales. This includes children from diverse backgrounds including African, Afro-Caribbean, Asian, Central and South American and European heritage, with the majority of these having been born in Wales.

What’s happening to tackle racism in schools in Wales?

There continues to be promising work in Wales that aims to tackle children and young people’s experiences of racism in school.

In 2023, the new curriculum came into force in Wales, with one of its four purposes being ‘to create ethical and informed citizens of Wales and the world’.

To support this, the Welsh Government commissioned ground-breaking work led by Professor Charlotte Williams, which led to Wales becoming the first country in the UK to make mandatory the teaching of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic history within the school curriculum

A key element arising from that work has been the commissioning of professional learning for educators on racism and anti-racism through the Diversity and Anti-Racism Professional Learning (DARPL) project.

The Welsh Government also published their Anti-racist Wales Action Plan in 2022, an ambitious and comprehensive plan which was co-produced with individuals and organisations with lived experience of racism. The action plan has a dedicated section on education with a large number of commitments.

Despite these important steps towards improving the diversity of what children learn in schools, and what teachers learn about racism, evidence continues to build about the unequal experiences of schooling and continuing experiences of racism and racist incidents amongst learners from diverse ethnic groups.

What do we want to see happen?

Our report makes 22 recommendations across the following themes:

  • a stronger school response to Racism and Racist incidents
  • more training and support for the whole school on understanding racism and responding to racist incidents
  • having National Data on racism in schools

The recommendations include:

  • Welsh Government should clarify within its forthcoming refreshed anti-bullying guidance how it expects schools to respond to, record and address racist incidents;
  • Welsh Government, in its refreshed anti-bullying guidance, should direct schools to deal with and record racist incidents as equivalent to safeguarding incidents ensuring the visibility and accessibility of school-based and regional systems for raising concerns.
  • Welsh Government should urgently progress its planned work to develop a Wales-wide system of recording and reporting of racist incidents in schools, ensuring there is a legal basis for this data collection, and clarifying the distinct roles and responsibilities of schools, local authorities and other bodies within this system.
  • Training on racism and anti-racism and recognising and responding to racist incidents should be made mandatory for all education leaders, teachers and support staff, refreshed on a minimum 3 year cycle, similar to safeguarding training. To ensure quality and consistency, this should be coordinated via the Welsh Government funded DARPL network and linked to the work of the National Academy for Educational Leadership (NAEL).
  • Welsh Government should direct Estyn to revise their Common Inspection Framework to place a stronger focus on how schools respond to, record and address racist incidents, ensuring that pupil voice and views on this are heard through their inspections.
  • School Improvement Consortia Wales should develop an ‘anti-racism champion’ role and steering groups including people and organisations with lived experience to support schools in revising policies, responding to incidents and upskilling staff on this topic, as well as offering direct advice to schools on live issues
  • School policies on responding to racist incidents should be communicated to all pupils in an accessible and child and young person friendly way, to support learning and develop an anti-racist school culture
  • School policies on responding to racist incidents should be clear about what happens both for the person reporting, and the person alleged to have been racist and should include a section on providing regular, timely and sensitive feedback mechanisms to all those involved in and affected by the incident.
  • WJEC should progress as a priority, the work already underway with DARPL to review and revise text lists in the syllabi that contain racist language, recognising its impact on learners and the school environment/culture.

You can read all of the recommendations in our full report.

Our ongoing work on this issue

We’re committed to influencing changes that will help improve minority ethnic children and young people’s educational experiences, alongside our broader work on equalities.

We will:

  • examine and scrutinise Welsh Government’s anticipated full response to our report, and key forthcoming documents including the expected new anti-bullying guidance for schools, and hold them to account on any promises they make.
  • continue to promote A Children’s Rights Approach across educational settings and public bodies, which promotes non-discrimination as part of comprehensive rights-based framework.
  • keep highlighting the experiences that were bravely shared with us in our report to decision-makers, key organisations, school leaders and practitioners to help influence change.

Other research relevant to racism in schools in Wales

There have been many other reports published on this or related issues in recent years. These reports show clearly that the experience of racism is widespread for young people from minority ethnic backgrounds living in Wales:

Broader relevant research on minority ethnic children’s experiences

Advice and Assistance

Our Advice and Assistance service is here to provide advice and assistance to children, young people and those who care for them if a child or young person is unable to access their rights.

We can provide advice and assistance directly to or in relation to a child or young person up to the age of 18 (or up to 25 in certain circumstances*) and we can help on any matter that the Welsh Government has a responsibility for.

The service is free, solution-focused and confidential. However, if we think that a child or young person is at risk of harm, we have a duty to share these concerns.