RACISM IN Gwent schools has been put under spotlight after 'heart wrenching' evidence was found in an investigation.

Gwent Safeguarding Board has commissioned a research project to explore experiences of racism and racist bullying to find out the reasons why learners in the five local authority areas are under-reporting or failing to report, incidents of racism or racist incidents that occur within their school environment. 

All five councils in Gwent participated in the work and have accepted the recommendations in the report.

Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen were compliant with policies and best practice guidelines in relation to the reporting of racist incidents in schools.

However, it was felt that it was unlikely that the number of reports reflected the actual numbers that occurred and gave a true picture of what was being experienced by children and young people.

Learners and adults explained they weren't confident that anything would happen to help them if they reported racism whilst some pupils expressed that talking about racism brought up past traumatic memories for them.

A high-profile recent incident in Gwent was two years ago, when a Blaenau Gwent school hit the headlines after youngster Raheem Bailey lost his finger in an alleged accident. 

Raheem was injured in an incident at his school, Abertillery Learning Community, on May 17, 2022.  Raheem’s mum, Shantal Bailey, said the schoolboy had been fleeing bullies when he injured his hand and alleged her son had suffered months of bullying at the school.

An investigation into the alleged incident was closed in February last year believing Raheem left the school ‘of his own accord.’

Free Press Series: Raheem Bailey needed surgery to remove a fingerRaheem Bailey needed surgery to remove a finger (Image: Family handout via PA Wire)

Principal investigators Chantelle Haughton and Dr Susan Davis, both principal lecturers at Cardiff Metropolitan University, were commissioned to undertake the study to explore experiences of racism and racist bullying in Gwent schools.

The research team also involved teachers Leon Andrews, Batool Akmal and Gemma Maiorano.

Gareth Jenkins, co-chair of Gwent Safeguarding Board, said: “It confirmed our concerns that incidents are under-reported and, more importantly, uncovered some of the reasons that might happen.

“The views expressed by the children and young people, and staff, were sometimes extremely upsetting and always sobering.

“This is not about pointing fingers but about learning how things can be improved to ensure our schools are safer and more inclusive for everyone.

“All five councils have welcomed the report and are united in that ambition and this report will help them to ensure anti-racism is further embedded in the ethos of schools and everything they do.”

Chantelle Haughton said: “Our research findings are heart wrenching to hear and feel and sadly no surprise. There needs to be stronger pro-action to racism and racist incidents in local authorities and schools across Wales, deep sustained professional learning through engagement with DARPL, support, new guidance, explicit data work and ongoing research.

“The research voices spotlight critical issues also prevalent in other areas across our country.”

Findings in the report included:

  • Racism is prevalent in the lives of those who participated in the research both in their schools and their communities.

  • Issues around the use of “banter” need to be addressed.

  • There are pockets of good and positive anti-racist practice and thinking in the area

  • Schools must talk to learners about their experiences and put systems in place to support them.

  • A standardised consistency of approach for both reporting and dealing with incidents must be put in place as well as an independent process for dealing with reported incidents so those making the claim have confidence it will be dealt with confidentially, impartially and there will be a resolution.

Each council will develop an action plan based on the recommendations and will be responsible for monitoring progress.

A joint statement for all 5 local authorities of the Gwent Safeguarding Board read:

"One of the recommendations made by the team has already been progressed, A regional DARPL (Diversity and Anti Racism Professional Learning) steering group supported by DARPL, will be set up for the five councils and the South East Wales Education Achievement Service (EAS).

"This will develop a more consistent approach to work around anti-racism in Wales and consider how best to support schools in their professional learning for staff and governors.

"The group will also support curriculum development around diversity and the prevention of racism.

"Each council will develop an action plan based on the recommendations and will be responsible for monitoring progress.

You can view the full report here.