Hate crimes rose in schools during Brexit campaign, finds study

Image by hipsxxhearts via Flickr/CC
Image by hipsxxhearts via Flickr/CC

Rising numbers of hate crimes and incidents were reported in England's schools during the Brexit campaign, new figures show.

Last May alone - the month before the referendum was held - saw an 89% hike in police reports, compared with the same month in 2015, according to an investigation by the Times Educational Supplement (TES).

And between May and July last year, the three months surrounding the June 23 vote, reported hate crimes and incidents in schools increased by 54%.

The statistics, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, are based on responses from 30 of England's police forces.

During the summer and autumn terms of last year, a period which covers the Brexit vote and the US presidential election, won by Donald Trump, there was a 48% increase in reported hate crimes and incidents, the TES analysis found.

Robert Posner, chief executive of the Anne Frank Trust UK, which runs a scheme tackling prejudice-related behaviour among young people, told the TES that the charity had heard more "disparaging" comments about refugees during workshops since the referendum.

"Language that we might consider to be either racist or prejudiced has become more normal and more accepted recently," he said.

A recent poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that more than a fifth of teachers (22%) were aware of incidents of hate crime or speech happening in their schools during the current academic year, while 16.9% were aware of such incidents outside of school.

The small-scale survey, which questioned 345 union members also found that around 17% believed there had been an increase in hate crime or speech and associated bullying in the last year.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said at that time that there needs to be more awareness about discrimination.

"Schools need to play their role in educating children to build a culture of tolerance and respect," she said.

"All schools should have robust bullying policies in place that cover how to deal with incidents of hate crime and speech.

"We hope that schools can support staff to educate young people in recognising and challenging hate crimes and hate speech wherever they occur."

Dr Bousted called on government to produce updated guidance that includes hate crime and speech.

Last July ministers launched a new action plan to tackle the issue of hate crime, following a surge in reported crimes and incidents after the EU referendum.

Under the new drive, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary was asked to carry out a ''scoping study'' into police forces' understanding of and response to hate crime.

Levels of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist bullying in schools were also to be examined and a new programme launched to help teachers begin conversations around international events and the impact they have on communities in the UK.