A third of children have heard racist abuse at school - here's how to talk to your child about race issues

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 4:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 4:03 pm
A third of children have heard racist abuse at school - here's how to talk to your child about race issues (Photo: Shutterstock)

Around one in three children have heard racist remarks at school, according to new research by an anti-bullying organisation.

The Diana Award commissioned a survey of 1,000 children of all ethnicities aged six to 15, asking them about various issues to do with racism, bullying and wellbeing at school. Also polled were 1,000 randomly selected parents of children in this age range.

Racism in schools

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While 32 per cent of children overall had heard something racist, this rose to more than half among 13 year olds. Children living in London were most likely to have witnessed racism at school, at around four in 10, while those in Northern Ireland were least likely, at around one in seven.

Later this month, The Diana Award will host The Big Anti-Bullying Assembly 2020 which will be shown in primary school classrooms and online. The assembly will feature a host of celebrities discussing issues relating to bullying, including England football manager Gareth Southgate, TV personality Peter Andre and Paralympic athlete Ade Adepitan.

Footballer Tyrone Mings, who will also feature in The Big Anti-Bullying Assembly, said, “I feel like everybody’s differences should be celebrated, there’s no shame or harm in being different so that’s why I’m putting my hand up to commit to putting an end to bullying.”

What can parents do?

The survey found that three quarters of parents said they believe racism is a problem online, and half say it is a problem in schools, but four in 10 say they have not spoken to their children about the issue recently.

Following the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests around the world, issues of race have been brought to the fore, leaving many parents unsure about how to broach the subject with their children.

UNICEF’s guidance on talking to children about racism recommends finding ways to introduce children to diverse cultures and people from different races and ethnicities, and tells parents to first consider their own racial bias, because children follow the example of their parents. The guidance also goes into further detail on how to tackle the subject with children of different age groups.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Dr Pragya Agarwal - a data scientist and expert on unconscious bias - said, “It’s never too early to start talking about diversity and bringing diverse books into children's lives.

“Make talking about skin colour normal and encourage respectful curiosity. Never shush them or show that talking about someone's skin colour is awkward or embarrassing.”