Coronavirus-related racism against teachers increasing in schools

4 March 2020, 15:27

The number of racist incidents in schools is increasing
The number of racist incidents in schools is increasing. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Teachers of Chinese and other ethnic minority origin are being subjected to racist name-calling, "banter" and intimidation in schools as fears of the coronavirus spread, a union has warned.

The NASUWT teachers' union said reports by its members of abuse, prejudice, xenophobia and racism in schools have increased since the outbreak reached the UK.

The union said there had been a report of groups of pupils playing an "unsavoury" game of tag named after the coronavirus.

In letters to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the NASUWT union warned of pupils and school staff being verbally and physically abused on "grounds that appear to be racially motivated".

The union is calling on education ministers to extend the coronavirus guidance that has already been issued to schools to address racist incidents related to coronavirus.

Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The NASUWT is extremely concerned at the extent of increased incidences of abuse, prejudice, xenophobia and racism as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

"Misinformation and false reporting about the coronavirus, its causes and how it is spread have fuelled fear and panic and in some cases led to the ostracising of people of East Asian heritage and others perceived to be 'foreign' or an 'immigrant' within the UK.

"Unfortunately, schools and colleges are not exempt from the associated xenophobic and racialised stereotyping of Chinese and other East Asian people.

"The NASUWT has received reports of increased covert and overt racial attacks perpetrated against some minority ethnic pupils and NASUWT members linked to coronavirus concerns."

There are now 85 cases on coronavirus in the UK
There are now 85 cases on coronavirus in the UK. Picture: PA

It comes after four men allegedly punched the student and shouted "coronavirus" in central London.

23-year-old Jonathan Mok said he was walking along Oxford Street when he heard shouts from behind him.

As he turned towards them, one of the men shouted “don't you dare look at me” and launched at him.

The Singaporean student says he was set upon by a group of "four or five men and a woman".

It is one of a number of racially motivated attacks linked to coronavirus in the UK. Last month, a woman in Solihull was punched in face and knocked out during a racist coronavirus attack.

And last month, China's ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said the Chinese embassy had received reports of racism from universities "and even in some middle schools and primary schools".

Ms Keates added: "The NASUWT is urging the Department for Education to communicate with schools and provide guidance and support for school leaders."

The National Education Union (NEU) also criticised the Government's handling of issues relating to the virus outbreak and said it has a responsibility to "set a tone".

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary for the NEU, said: "The NEU has a number of concerns about contingency planning and support for schools around the coronavirus.

"These range from the impact on school trips and exams season, to the very worrying victimisation of BAME staff and students.

"Government has a responsibility to set a tone in their handling of the coronavirus, but unfortunately these issues have not been addressed in their action plan.

"We are in touch with the Department for Education and trust that an ongoing conversation will lead to more comprehensive and up to date guidance."