Suffolk/Essex: School racism hike blamed on Dale Farm furor
Ormiston Children and Families Trust (OCFT) said hateful views children had picked up at home had found their way onto the playground.
The charity, which works across East Anglia, said the hike in racist incidents had seen travellers families withdraw their children from schools.
But Suffolk and Essex education authorities said their schools had not reported any racist incidents towards gypsies or travellers since the start of term.
The charity’s claim came as bailiffs yesterday moved onto the former scrapyard near Basildon in Essex to begin evicting up to 400 people. But they withdrew amid concerns over a structure erected by campaigners which they feared may endanger life.
Geoffrey Prescott, chief executive of OCFT, said: “Racism seems to be somehow having a greater tolerance when it is towards gypsies and travellers and we see that reflected in the playground.
“We are very worried about reports from our teams of an increase in incidents of bullying and racial abuse in primary and secondary schools in the region. No doubt this will be reflected nationally too.
“Children will pick up on any animosity and stereotyping they hear at home or through the media and we are urging parents and teachers to nip this in the bud.
“There are many gypsy and traveller children in schools in the region, but there are also schools without gypsy and traveller children.
“Racism should not be tolerated in either and we are extremely concerned that publicity over the Dale Farm story has allowed adults to air some horrible views which are now being repeated in playgrounds and classrooms.
“The impact on the children who are being bullied is awful.”
Jane Le Breton, a supporter worker for the charity who works directly with traveller families, said: “This is regression. We have spent years working with families, getting their children into local schools and feeling part of their wider community.
“Families are now afraid for their children and some are refusing to send them back to school because of an increase in name-calling, bullying and intimidating behaviour.”
Essex County Council (ECC) said earlier this summer it had contacted schools in the Dale Farm area to issue advice over the potential for racist abuse towards children from gypsy families.
A spokeswoman added: “Essex County Council has not been made aware of any reported racist incidents in schools involving traveller children.”
A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said; “There have been no incidents involving racial discrimination against gypsies or travellers reported in any schools within Suffolk or via the police to the hate crime team since children returned after the summer holidays.
“Suffolk County Council take any forms of discrimination in schools or otherwise extremely seriously and any incidents will be dealt with quickly and efficiently.”