Mandatory Reporting of Racist Bullying Incidents
Casework taken on by the Traveller Movement in recent years has consistently demonstrated a link between racist bullying and school exclusions. Many schools lack a formal process for combatting racist bullying and so not enough is done to address such incidents. As a result, children often self-exclude (leave school or declare home education before a formal exclusion process can take place), or are excluded following situations arising from a history of bullying which has been overlooked by the school. An important step in breaking the school to prison pipeline is to address and tackle racist bullying in schools, and ensure children are supported to stay in education.
Schools must have a formal process for dealing with racist bullying and must provide trauma-informed support for children experiencing this. Often, those who experience racist bullying are punished after behaviour has escalated to physical confrontations between perpetrator and victim because effective interventions have not been made to stop the bullying. Schools have a responsibility to address incidents of racist bullying before they escalate to violence but this frequently does not happen, to the detriment of all pupils.
Currently, schools must publish information annually to demonstrate compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty, and must publish equality objectives every four years. However, it is not a legal requirement to record incidents of racist bullying or to implement equality and diversity policies. As the government’s Equality Act Advice states, previous legislation required schools to “produce equality schemes in relation to race, disability and gender. Under the [current] specific duties, there are no requirements to create equality schemes.”29 This is a huge oversight.
Many cases taken on by the Traveller Movement have shown that often exclusions from school arise because concerns about racist bullying are not taken seriously. A multilevel approach is needed, from local school leadership, through to local authority, charities and the third sector, and up to government level. Equality objectives should be made statutory in schools, with a specific race-centred focus. Equality and diversity policies are currently not mandatory where there is a clear necessity for this to be so.
The Traveller Movement recently brought a legal case against the Department for Education concerning the failure to address racist bullying directed at Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children at schools in England. We called upon the Secretary of State to produce specific guidance for schools on how to respond effectively to anti-Gypsy, Roma and Traveller bullying, to reintroduce a requirement to record and monitor incidents of racist bullying in schools, to include specific reference to anti-Gypsy, Roma and Traveller bullying in the government’s general guidance on bullying in schools, among other recommendations. As the Secretary of State made important commitments in their response to address racist bullying against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller youth, the Traveller Movement decided not to take the case further. Nevertheless, we feel that much more must be done, on both a national and local level, to tackle the prevalence of anti-Gypsy, Roma and Traveller bullying in schools. Not only is bullying detrimental to children’s wellbeing and mental health, but it can lead to physical altercations between the perpetrator and victim which may then result in exclusion for violence. In this way, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children who experience racist bullying at school are let down by the education system.
2.2 Incidents of racist bullying un schools must be recorded with standardised, formal procedures in place.