Schools in Bolton recorded more suspensions for racial abuse last year, new figures show.

Department for Education figures show there were 20 suspensions at Bolton schools for racial abuse during the 2022-23 spring term – up from 10 across the same period the year before.

This follows the national trend, with 3,779 suspensions for racial abuse recorded across English schools – a 21 per cent rise from spring 2021-22.

The figures also show a substantial increase compared to spring term in 2018-19, before the pandemic, when there were 1,690 such temporary exclusions.

In Bolton schools, pupils were suspended on 15 occasions during this period.

Across the country, 20 pupils had to look for a new school after being permanently excluded for racial abuse – none of them were in Bolton.

There was a total of 2,485 temporary suspensions in Bolton – a 63 per cent increase compared to the year before. On average, those suspended missed 3.9 days from school.

Pupils were also suspended for bullying nine times.

Robert Poole Assistant District Secretary Bolton NEU said: “There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that racism is on the rise and the second is that schools are taking this issue more seriously which is leading to more pupils being suspended for their actions.

“In either case the way to tackle this is for schools to have a commitment to anti-racists values and a whole school approach to race equality.

“This should include using the curriculum to challenge racial inequality, achieve cultural inclusion and respond to the differences in children's lives caused by racism, poverty and discrimination.

“Bolton has a proud history of anti-racism that should be taught to all our pupils and counter the negativity that sadly comes from those in power.

“From workers in Bolton's mills who refused to work with slave picked cotton - Abraham Lincoln even wrote to them to thank them.

“To Ramila Patel who was a teacher and trade unionist from Bolton who worked undercover fighting apartheid in South Africa.

“We also need to look at the wider issues in society that lead to a rise in racism. The erosion of public services and support for families. The rising levels of poverty. The racist rhetoric of our politicians.

“Racism has no place in our society and no place in our schools especially.”

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “Each school has a written behaviour policy that individual headteachers will use to make decisions on disciplinary measures, including the option to suspend or exclude students.

“Racial abuse and bullying have no place in our schools and such incidents are always taken incredibly seriously.”

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Becca Rosenthal, hate crime lead at Victim Support, said schools are working harder to protect young people impacted by racial hate.

She said: “This increase in suspensions and exclusions could be an indicator that schools are clamping down on this behaviour, rather than reflecting an actual rise in racist abuse.

“Racist abuse has a devastating impact on young people, affecting their mental health and overall wellbeing.

“It can cause the breakdown of friendships and disrupt children’s learning, making victims unwilling to come to school.

“It’s vital that schools and youth services have the tools to tackle racist abuse and staff are confident in having challenging conversations.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said these cases are linked to wider societal issues such as access to hateful and prejudiced online content.

He said: “There is a wider issue about behaviour in general which we believe is linked to factors such as the erosion in local support services for families and children and unmet special educational needs.

“More investment is needed in these areas as well as more regulation to prevent hateful online content.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Racism, discrimination and violent behaviour have no place in our schools, nor in society.

“The Government is very clear it backs head teachers to use exclusions where required, so they can provide calm, safe, and supportive environments for children to learn in.

“We are providing targeted support to schools to help improve behaviour, attendance and reduce the risk of exclusions with an investment of £10 million in our Behaviour Hubs programme, and our mental health teams who will reach at least 50 per cent of pupils by 2025.”

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