“Take it seriously”: children’s experiences of racism within secondary schools

The experiences we’ve heard in compiling this report suggest that, sadly, very many children and young people experience racism and racist incidents within secondary school, and few have confidence in how this is dealt with. Teachers and stakeholders discussed similar experiences, echoing issues of lack of confidence and lack of clarity on how to respond to these incidents.

Read the report

Read a children’s version

What we did

We spoke to 170 children and young people from minority diverse range of backgrounds, from local authority areas spanning the breadth of Wales. We also gathered views and experiences from teachers, head teachers and other educators from a total of seventeen schools, as well as hearing from a range of experts and stakeholders in the field. We are very grateful to all who shared their views and their time so generously.

What we heard

We have heard from minority ethnic children and young people from right across Wales that they experience racism in many ways from microaggressions to verbal and physical abuse, and that at the lower end of the scale, this experience is almost a normal part of life for them.

We have also heard about many reasons, illustrated by many personal experiences, of why leaners may not report racist incidents, including: the normalization of racism, not really 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; and not expecting much to happen anyway. This means that overall, the cost benefit analysis means that it is usually not seen as worth reporting racist incidents. This suggests that those incidents which do get reported are really just the visible tip of a very large iceberg.

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

What we want to happen

The report makes 22 recommendations, including:

  • 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.
  • 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  These roles should link to and be supported by Welsh Government’s proposed ARWAP Regional Coordinators.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.