Pupils subjected to hate crime and speech while at school - ATL poll

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Press release
10 April 2017 by ATL Media Office
Monday 10 April EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 HOURS, TUESDAY 11 APRIL 2017.

Over a fifth (22%) of education staff believe that pupils have been subjected to hate crime or hate speech* while at school in the last academic year, according to a poll of 345 members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Seventeen per cent of the 235 who responded about hate crime specifically said they feel there has been an increase in hate crime or speech in the last year.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL believes that “the Government needs to produce updated guidance that includes discussion of hate crime and speech and encourages critical thinking.”

Of the ATL members who responded to the poll about pupil-to-pupil bullying and hate crime and speech, 12% thought pupils were bullied because of their ethnicity, 12% because of their race, and 12% because of their sexual orientation.

However, almost three-quarters (72%) of education staff feel that pupils are bullied because they are perceived as being different from the ‘norm’, and 18% believe that pupils are bullied because of their socioeconomic status, for example living in poverty or in wealth.

A primary teacher at a school in Tyne and Wear said: “A pupil made a video slandering another one and published this on YouTube; this followed a few days of hate on Facebook. Other pupils in the school joined with the hate speech for a few days before 'selecting' another pupil and completing the same cycle.”

A support staff member in a primary academy in London said: “A pupil constantly said to another pupil that ‘my God is better than yours’.”

A head of department in an FE college in the South East said: “One student called another a terrorist as a ‘joke’.”

Eighty-four per cent believe that education about hate crime, hate speech and discrimination should be included in mandatory Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and age-appropriate Sex and Relationships Education (SRE).

Despite 53% saying their school provides the support they need to report incidents of hate crime or speech, 33% said they haven’t received any training on how to deal with hate crime or speech, but that they would like some.

Members were also asked about pupil-to-pupil bullying at their school, with a third (32.6%) saying they have witnessed pupils being bullied in the last year. Thirty-six per cent reported that pupils have told them they are being bullied, and 43% said colleagues have made them aware that pupils are being bullied. More than a fifth (21.2%) said bullying occurs on a weekly basis.

The survey found that 66% believe cyberbullying between pupils has increased in the last two years, and 40% believe that emotional bullying has increased in the last two years.

The majority (85%) of respondents said that pupil-to-pupil bullying takes the form of verbal abuse, and 60% said pupils face emotional abuse from other pupils, where they are isolated, ignored or humiliated. Fifty-two per cent said they believed pupils face bullying via social media, texts or emails, and just over fifth (21%) said pupils are having to face physical abuse. 

A member of staff in a secondary school in North Yorkshire said: “Mobile phones are a contentious issue and apps such as Snapchat have made it easier than ever to send abuse.”

A teacher in a primary school in Wiltshire said: “One child bullied others to hand over snacks and parts of a packed lunch, which went on for months. Children then told us after we noticed a change in behaviour.”

A headteacher at a primary school in the West Midlands said: “We had an incident recently where a child new to the school was threatened by a group of other boys. They had been saying things to him previously and it escalated into minor violence and threats to hurt his younger brother.”

A primary teacher from Cardiff said: “A boy who lacks confidence socially was targeted by others over a period of three weeks. The other boys were telling staff that he had hurt them so that the victim would get into trouble. The victim had not reported it because he was afraid – and the other boys are deemed popular.”

A teacher in a sixth-form in West Yorkshire said: “One girl bullied another girl via social media as her ex-boyfriend had recently started seeing the new girl. Quite mild insults very quickly escalated to quite serious threats.”

While 60% said they feel they receive enough support from their school when dealing with incidents of bullying between pupils, a fifth (19.4%) said they do not.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, went on to say: “There are a number of complex reasons why pupils bully other pupils and schools try their best to work with both pupils and parents to deal with these incidents.

“ATL calls for awareness to be raised about the discrimination faced daily by many. Schools need to play their role in educating children to build a culture of tolerance and respect. 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.

“After years of lobbying them to do so, we welcome the Government’s proposals to require PSHE to be taught in all schools, to require relationship and sex education teaching in all secondary schools, and to require the teaching of age-appropriate relationships education in primary schools.”

Martha Evans, National Coordinator at the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said: “Bullying has a tremendous impact on a young person’s mental health and the effects can last for a long time even when the bullying itself stops. These stark figures show how pervasive this problem is. The Anti-Bullying Alliance wants to see more awareness and support for schools about challenging discriminatory language and hate crimes and incidents in school.”

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said: “Being bullied can have a deep impact on a child’s mental health. Worryingly the results of this poll not only show the scale of bullying in UK schools but also that the problem is getting worse. Without help victims of bullies could still be dealing with the emotional and psychological scars years down the line. This is why we are calling for the Government to ensure all schools and colleges have the resources to ensure pupils have access to counselling onsite and during term time should they need it.”


Note to editors:

  • *Hate crime is defined as a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence. Hate speech is defined as expressions of hatred towards an individual or group, motivated by prejudice around race, disability, ethnicity, nationality, religion or sexual orientation.
  • The Anti-Bullying Alliance is a unique coalition of organisations and individuals, working together to stop bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. They provide information, advice and support to the anti-bullying sector, run targeted programme work and coordinate Anti-Bullying Week each year in England.
  • Barnardo’s is the UK’s largest and oldest children’s charity. Last year 248,000 children, young people and families were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 996 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes. It works to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year it helps thousands of families to build a better future.  
  • The Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ Annual Conference will be held at ACC in Liverpool from Monday 10 until Wednesday 12 April 2017.
  • ATL is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.
  • ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first-rate research, advice, information and legal advice, and to work with Government and employers to defend its members’ pay, conditions and career development.
  • ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.

Further notes: 

Responses from 345 ATL members working in state/maintained schools, independent schools, 6th form colleges and FE colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The survey was carried out in March 2017.

Are you aware of any incidents of hate crime/speech in your school/college involving pupils in this academic year?

Answer Options Yes No Unsure Response Count
Outside of school 38 (16.9%) 139 (62%) 47 (20.9%) 224
Inside school 51 (22%) 139 (60.1%) 41 (17.7%) 231
  • Answered question: 235
  • Skipped question: 110

What are the main reasons pupils in your school/college are bullied? Please mark all that apply.

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Race 11.5% 28
Ethnicity 11.9% 29
Gender including transgender 8.2% 20
Disability 7.8% 19
Religion 7.4% 18
Perceived difference from the 'norm' 72.4% 176
Socioeconomic status 18.1% 44
Sexual orientation 12.3% 30
  • Answered question: 243
  • Skipped question: 102

Do you believe there has been an increase in hate crime/speech, and bullying associated with hate crime/speech, among pupils in your school/college in the last year?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes, a slight increase 10.6% 25
Yes, a huge increase 6.8% 16
No, the number of incidents has stayed the same 13.2% 31
I am not aware of any hate crime/speech and bullying associated with it taking place in my school/college 37.9% 89
Don't know 27.7% 65
  • Answered question: 235
  • Skipped question: 110

Do you think that hate crime, hate speech and discrimination should be covered in mandatory PSHE and age-appropriate SRE?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 84.3% 194
No 3.9% 9
Don't know 5.7% 13
  • Answered question: 230
  • Skipped question: 115

Do you think that your school/college provides enough support if anyone needs to report incidents of hate crime/speech?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 53.0% 122
No 16.5% 38
Don't know 30.4% 70
  • Answered question: 230
  • Skipped question: 115

Have you received training on how to deal with incidents of hate crime/speech?

Answer options Response percent Response count
Yes, it was satisfactory 30.9% 71
Yes, but I don't feel it provided me with enough support/guidance 13.0% 30
No, I haven't received any training but I don't feel I need it 19.1% 44
No, I haven't received any training but I would like some 32.6% 75
  • Answered question: 230
  • Skipped question: 115

Have any pupils in your school/college been subject to bullying in the current academic year? Please mark all that apply.

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes, I have witnessed it 32.6% 89
Yes, the pupil(s) concerned disclosed it to me 36.3% 99
Yes, other pupils told me about it 30.4% 83
Yes, colleagues told me about it 42.9% 117
Unsure 5.9% 16
No, I’m not aware of pupils being bullied 13.9% 38
  • Answered question: 273
  • Skipped question: 72

How often does bullying occur? Please mark all that apply.

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Regular, daily 15.4% 39
Regular, weekly 21.3% 54
Once in the last month 11.8% 30
Once in the last six months 2.4% 6
Intermittent 34.3% 87
One-off incident 10.2% 26
Don't know 20.9% 53
  • Answered question: 254
  • Skipped question: 91

Do you think that these forms of bullying have increased over the last two years?

Answer Options Yes No Not sure Response Count
Verbal bullying 76 (28.4%) 108 (40.4%) 83 (31%) 267
Physical bullying 28 (10.7%) 157 (60.1%) 76 (29.1%) 261
Emotional bullying 107 (40%) 92 (34.4%) 68 (25.4%) 267
Cyber bullying     178 (65.9%) 34 (12.5%) 58 (21.4%) 270
  • Answered question: 273
  • Skipped question: 72

What form does this bullying take? Please mark all that apply.

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Verbal abuse 84.8% 206
Cyber bullying via text/email/social media 51.9% 126
Physical abuse 21.4% 52
Emotional abuse (isolating, ignoring, humiliating) 60.5% 147
  • Answered question: 243
  • Skipped question: 102

Do you feel you receive enough support from your school/college/SLT/head when dealing with incidents of bullying between pupils?

Answer Options Response Percent Response Count
Yes 59.7% 163
No 19.4% 53
I've not had to deal with bullying between pupils 16.1% 44
Don't know 4.8% 13
  • Answered question: 273
  • Skipped question    72
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