Teachers 'Fear Growing Acceptability Of Discriminatory Language After EU Vote'

10 November 2016, 06:12 | Updated: 10 November 2016, 06:14

Teachers fear discriminatory language is becoming more acceptable among some pupils and parents in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union, MSPs have been told.

Edinburgh University's Moray House School of Education called for race to be "explicitly back on the agenda'' after the Brexit vote in June.

Teachers were "reluctant and anxious'' about addressing racism, said academics from the school in evidence submitted to Holyrood's Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

"Our recent discussions with teaching staff point to a growing mood among pupils and also within some parent groupings about a new acceptability of discriminatory language and views related to colour, ethnicity, nationality, ethnic origins and religion,'' they said.

"While there has not been a spike in recorded hate crime in Scotland post-Brexit, those school leaders who are aware of racial equality issues have expressed concern that parents of pupils caught for racial bullying are now very likely to say, for example, 'it is unfortunate she was caught...but it happens all the time... just unfortunate my daughter was caught saying this'.

"In the views of these school leaders, such a response would not have been forthcoming in previous years. 'Race' needs to be explicitly back on the agenda.''

The researchers recommended updated advice for schools, more training for teachers and better recording of incidents of bullying and harassment to tackle the problem.

MSPs are due to take evidence on the issue from Moray House head Dr Rowena Arshad, alongside a range of organisations including the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

EIS said it was concerned that "the current political discourse around immigration is creating a climate which will exacerbate bullying and harassment of refugee and asylum seeking children, and children from visible/audible ethnic minorities, who are or are perceived to be refugees or migrants.

"We fear that current narratives about 'migrants' in, eg, the tabloid media put certain children at greater risk of bullying and harassment.''

The union added: "Our own work confirms that some forms of prejudice-based bullying are particularly emergent at present.

"Bullying arising from misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and homophobia are issues of serious concern to the EIS.''

The union criticised the controversial "Prevent'' duty contained in the 2015 Counter Terrorism and Security Act, which states certain public bodies must "have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.''

"We are particularly concerned about the degree of scrutiny to which Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) learners and families may be subjected because of this legislation and its implementation,'' it said.

EIS called for schools to monitor the numbers of racist incidents and take action if an increase is noted, but also to pay "extra attention to safeguarding Muslim pupils or students''.