Bedford bucks the trend as fewer pupils being excluded for racist abuse

Town's experience differs from the rest of the country which is reporting all-time high in cases

Schools in Bedford excluded pupils for racist bullying on fewer occasions last year, new figures reveal.

But with racism-related exclusions at a record high across England, anti-racism campaign group Hope Note Hate said schools are clamping down on abuse.

Department for Education data shows Bedford's schools excluded students four times for racist abuse in 2018-19.

Department for Education data shows Bedford's schools excluded students four times for racist abuse in 2018-19

That was down from eight in the previous academic year.

All were fixed-term exclusions, also known as suspensions, where a pupil is temporarily removed. The figures include abuse by children at state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in the area.

The picture in Bedford differed from that across the rest of England, where pupils were excluded for racist bullying on 4,900 occasions last year – the highest since records began in 2006-07, and up from 4,300 in 2017-18.

Owen Jones, head of education at Hope Not Hate, said the number of additional racist abuse exclusions last year was "worrying".

However, he added: "From what we have seen, there is a much better concerted effort to clamp down and take it more seriously.

"Students of colour are having more confidence to speak up. It's not just about the 'n' word, it's about comments made throughout the day which make students feel unwelcome."

Angela Wright, education development lead at anti-hate crime charity Stop Hate UK, said the charity has seen a desire among students to "make a change and call out racism", following the death of black American George Floyd while in police custody in May.

Overall, Bedford schools excluded pupils 1,260 times in 2018-19 – equivalent to 24 exclusions every week.

This was an increase of 14 per cent on the previous year, when they handed out 1,101 exclusions.

The rise in total exclusions in Bedford reflects the trend across England, where the figure rose by 7 per cent to 446,000.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, fears there will be further exclusions as a result of children struggling to adjust to being back at school after the coronavirus lockdown.

A DfE spokesman said permanent exclusion should be a last resort.