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Gwent research “stepping-stone” to tackling racism in Wales

News | 21 February 2024

A powerful report into racism in schools which will change the way local authorities tackle anti-racism has been released following research by Cardiff Metropolitan University.

South East Wales Children’s (SEWC) Safeguarding Board’s education race subgroup commissioned Cardiff Met’s School of Education and Social Policy to undertake a small but significant study in Gwent schools.

Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen were compliant with policies and best practice guidelines in relation to the reporting of racist incidents in schools. However, it was felt that it was unlikely that the number of reports reflected the actual numbers that occurred and gave a true picture of what was being experienced by children and young people.

The education race subgroup, established by the Gwent Safeguarding Board in 2022, wanted to find out why pupils may “under report” racist incidents.

Principal lecturers Chantelle Haughton and Dr Susan Davis, from Cardiff Metropolitan University, led the research.

Drawing on a range of lived and professional experience throughout, the diverse research team also involved teachers Leon Andrews, Batool Akmal, Gemma Maiorano and Dr John Fernandes.

Gareth Jenkins, co-chair of Gwent Safeguarding Board, said: “The Board and the five councils are extremely grateful to Mrs Haughton, Dr Davis and the team for their thought-provoking and revealing report.

“It confirmed our concerns that incidents are under-reported and, more importantly, uncovered some of the reasons that might happen. The views expressed by the children and young people, and staff, were sometimes extremely upsetting and always sobering. This is not about pointing fingers but about learning how things can be improved to ensure our schools are safe and inclusive for everyone.

“All five councils have welcomed the report and are united in that ambition and this report will help them to ensure anti-racism is embedded in the ethos of schools and everything they do.”

Chantelle Haughton said: “The Gwent Safeguarding Board taking this positive, determined step to commission an area specific piece of research intent on hearing and action, is a vital stepping-stone to be spotlighted for lessons relevant pan-Wales.

“Our research findings are heart wrenching to hear and feel and sadly no surprise. There needs to be stronger pro-action to racism and racist incidents in local authorities and schools across Wales, deep sustained professional learning through engagement with Diversity and Anti Racism Professional Learning (DARPL) support, new guidance, explicit data work and ongoing research.

“The research spotlights critical issues also prevalent in other areas across our country. Our future generations spoke courageously to our research team, they want educators and policy makers to take them seriously, to hear their experiences of racism, they want improvement in support, knowledge, communication and sanction.

“The brave participants in the research want their honesty, experience, ideas and voices to play a leading light in the step-change. They want to start to feel that something is being done. Let’s really hear, truly care and build a new legacy together.”

Findings in the report included:

  • Racism is prevalent in the lives of those who participated in the research both in their schools and their communities.
  • Issues around the use of “banter” need to be addressed.
  • There are pockets of good and positive anti-racist practice and thinking in the area.
  • Schools must talk to learners about their experiences and put systems in place to support them.
  • A standardised consistency of approach for both reporting and dealing with incidents must be put in place as well as an independent process for dealing with reported incidents so those making the claim have confidence it will be dealt with confidentially, impartially and there will be a resolution.

One of the recommendations made by the team has already been progressed, A regional DARPL steering group will be set up for the five councils and the South East Wales Education Achievement Service (EAS).

This will develop a more consistent approach to work around anti-racism in Wales and consider how best to support schools in their professional learning for staff and governors. It will also support curriculum development around diversity and the prevention of racism.

Each council will develop an action plan based on the recommendations and will be responsible for monitoring progress.

Read the full report.