Racism in Schools

– in the Scottish Parliament on 15th June 2021.

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Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to a recent survey, which records that more than 2,000 incidents of racism have been reported in schools over the last three years. (S6T-00075)

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is clear that there is no place for racism in our schools and is committed to addressing and tackling all forms of bullying, including on the grounds of race. In 2019, in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities and teaching unions, we developed and implemented a national approach to the recording and monitoring of bullying in Scottish schools.

That national approach enables schools and local authorities to monitor all reported incidents of racist bullying and take all appropriate actions. Diversity and equality are at the heart of the policies that underpin education in Scotland and we are working with key anti-racist organisations to address how schools can be further supported.

The race equality and anti-racism in education programme is leading work to strengthen support for schools in tackling racist incidents and racist bullying while enhancing professional learning and leadership, diversifying the education workforce and reforming the curriculum.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

Data from Show Racism the Red Card’s consultation shows that 48 per cent of teachers are aware of a pupil or pupils expressing negative attitudes relating to skin colour, 38 per cent relating to religion and 37 per cent relating to nationality. Although 61 per cent of teachers expressed a lack of confidence about educating pupils on anti-racism, only 24 per cent have received training on the subject.

Those are serious and worrying statistics. Given that 85 per cent of respondents said that tailored anti-racism workshops would be beneficial for all concerned, what urgent action can the Government take to ensure that that happens?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

That is a very important issue, and the Government takes it very seriously. As I mentioned, the race equality and anti-racism in education programme is leading that work, which includes school leadership and professional learning as one of its four strands. It aims to ensure that Scotland’s professional educators are confident and empowered to promote equality and foster good relations and, importantly, to identify, prevent and proactively deal with racism if they see examples of it.

It is important that we ensure that school leadership and professional learning is further developed and that we also increase the diversity in the teaching profession so that it further reflects the Scottish population, just as we wish to see in the Parliament.

Photo of Alexander Stewart Alexander Stewart Conservative

Show Racism the Red Card’s chair wrote to the Scottish Government to call for anti-racism to be included in the national curriculum following announcements about a similar move in Wales earlier this year. Given that 93 per cent of respondents to Show Racism the Red Card’s consultation said that

“anti-racism must be included within the curriculum”, will the cabinet secretary confirm that the Scottish Government will seriously consider that request in order to further protect children from harm?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I go back to the work of the race equality and anti-racism in education programme, because one of its other strands is curriculum reform. That is being looked at very closely to ensure that the curriculum is inclusive, that it recognises, for example, Scotland’s colonial past, and that it respects the identities of young people and supports them on their journey through school. Work is on-going to ensure that our curriculum gives confidence to our learners— in my original answer I spoke about giving confidence to teachers—so that they can discuss the issue and tackle it when they see it, and so that everyone in our schools can reach their potential without being blighted by any racist activity towards them or anyone else in their classroom settings.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

The Government has previously backed and agreed to implement the incredible work of the Time for Inclusive Education initiative, which aims to combat homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusive education. In addition to what the cabinet secretary has already outlined, will the Scottish Government back a similar programme to tackle racism and disablism in schools?

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

The Government is looking closely at racism and all forms of bullying in schools. Importantly, it is working with young people as it considers how to tackle the problems and what the solutions might be. That is why I will be meeting young people to follow up on meetings that took place with the Deputy First Minister when he was education secretary and with the Minister for Equalities and Older People, particularly on the racism issue, to ensure that we are learning from their experiences and that they are part of our work to develop the right solutions. We take that approach with any type of bullying or harassment in schools.