New research conducted as pupils in the UK head back to school this month has found that a quarter of children believe bullying around race has got worse, it was reported on Tuesday.
The survey was commissioned by the Diana Award, an anti-bullying organisation, in collaboration with Nationwide Building Society.
It explores children’s and young people’s experience of bullying and their feelings about returning to the classroom after spending, in some cases, almost six months away during the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, followed by the summer break.
Polling was targeted at 1,000 parents with children aged six to 16, and 1,000 children aged six to 16. It revealed a high level of anxiety around school re-starting among both groups, with about a third in each group reporting concerns.
For example, 33% of parents were worried that their child would struggle to integrate into social groups back at school; while 34% of children said they were more worried about returning to school after the period of lockdown than they would be normally.
Most disappointingly the survey revealed that many children feel racism has got worse among their peers.
Nearly a third (30%) said they had heard someone being racist at school in their lifetime; while nearly 1 in 4 (24%) said they noticed a rise in racist bullying just before and during the lockdown, the survey found.
Meanwhile three quarters of parents (74%) reported that they felt racism was a problem on the internet.
The researchers didn’t unearth a reason why this situation had potentially become worse in 2020, but 28% of parents did say that lockdown has had a negative effect on how children behave towards each other.
The disruption of COVID-19 hasn’t necessarily meant a break from bullying, the statistics show, with 46% of children saying that they experienced bullying in the past year, and 66% saying they had seen or heard bullying in the past year.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, a union that represents school leaders, said: “Education can play a pivotal role in tackling discrimination.”
“It is through education that we can start to build a truly inclusive society… [and] discuss and challenge prejudice,” he added, speaking to the Times Education Supplement magazine. “Schools have a vital role to play in this work, not just through lessons, but through everyday activities.”
In response to the concerns about bullying and racism, the Diana Award and Nationwide Building Society have joined forces to create the “Big Anti-Bullying Assembly” — an event focused on raising awareness about bullying featuring musicians, sports stars, and other celebrities which will be delivered virtually to schools on Sept. 28.
Sorry, we're busy on the 28th September.— Anti-Bullying Pro (from charity The Diana Award) (@AntiBullyingPro) September 1, 2020
Block the day out in your diary just like our friends @MrPeterAndre@PoulterWill@TwistandPulse@celspellman@Kt_Leung and more for our first ever virtual #AntiBullyingAssembly.
Join us and @AskNationwide: https://t.co/RNmw8BODbnpic.twitter.com/tOgGijHfLW
The event will be hosted by Blue Peter presenters Mwaksy Mudend and Richie Driss, who will be joined by England defender Tyrone Mings, James McVey from the Vamps, Harry Potter actress Katie Leung, presenter Ade Adepitan, and more.
Mings said: “I feel like everybody’s differences should be celebrated, there’s no shame or harm in being different so that’s why I’m putting my hand up to commit to putting an end to bullying.”
You can find out more about the event here. If you're based in the UK and have experienced bullying, you can call the National Bullying Helpline on 0845 22 55 787, or find resources and support through the Diana Award’s chat service.