THE number of pupils excluded in Bradford last year for racist abuse and bullying rose by more than a fifth compared to the previous year, a new study has found.

The report, compiled from Department for Education statistics, found there were 71 student exclusions across the district in the 2018/19 school year.

This was a 22 per cent increase on the figures for 2017/18, when 58 pupils were suspended for racism. The figures include the district’s state primary, secondary and special schools.

The rise in Bradford was eight per cent higher than the national picture, where the number of exclusions for racism rose 14 per cent from 4,300 to 4,900 in the same time period.

Owen Jones, head of education at anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate, said the figures are “worrying”, but also show schools are taking racist incidents seriously.

He said: “From what we have seen, there is a much better concerted effort to clamp down and take it more seriously.

“The process of exclusion is fraught for everyone involved, but the tolerance for that behaviour is reducing.

“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.”

Ian Murch, president of the Bradford District branch of the National Education Union, said the rise was “obviously worrying”.

He said: “It’s important that any organisation which runs schools keeps a record of incidents and records what it does about them.

"You do get fluctuations in numbers, and you’d need a bigger change to be certain whether this is down to more incidents or better reporting, but it’s obviously worrying when it goes up.

“But I do think students do now more often think, ‘I need to report this’, and the Black Lives Matter movement means people understand this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, rather than seen as casual young people’s behaviour.

“If teachers witness the incident, they are well trained to deal with both the victim and the perpetrator, and schools have processes – not just exclusions – to deal with an incident, such as talking to the perpetrator’s parents and discussing it with other pupils so that everyone is clear it will not be tolerated.”

Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s Deputy Leader and executive member for education, employment and skills, said: “It’s sad to see the numbers have increased not just in Bradford district but also in the rest of the country.

“There is no place for racism in the district and we fully support our schools in challenging all forms of abuse, bullying and unacceptable behaviour. Exclusions are only used as a last resort.

“Schools work hard to tackle racism, promote race equality and give pupils the confidence to speak out and report incidents.

“We support schools through programmes such as Stand Up, Speak Out and Make a Difference (SUSOMAD). This is a peer education project that tackles issues including human rights, prejudice, discrimination and extremism, and explores ways in which young people can use their voice constructively for society.

“Last year, through SUSOMAD, 17,000 pupils from Bradford district took part in exhibition visits and workshops by The Anne Frank Trust and Remembering Srebrenica. It is hugely valuable work.”