Rise in school-related hate crime

Hundreds of hate-related crimes have been committed at or near schools and colleges in the last two years - and the numbers are rising.

A Press Association investigation has found that, in the last academic year alone, around five offences occurred for each day of the school year.

It also indicated a 62% hike in these types of crimes between 2015/16 and 2016/17.

School leaders said it is "disturbing" to see an increase, but argued that it is still "relatively rare" for these offences to take place in schools and colleges.

Police chiefs said "significant efforts" have been made to improve recording systems, and to work with other agencies, and that this may largely account for the rise.

  • 2015/16 - 568

  • 2016/17 - 919

  • 62% rise

Police forces in England and Wales were asked through freedom of information requests how many-hate related offences had taken place in their area where the location of the crime included the words "school" or "college".

In total, there were 1,487 crimes with a hate element at or near schools and colleges in the last two academic years, according to data provided by 29 forces.

Of these, 919 occurred between September 2016 and July 2017 - around five for each day of the school year - and 568 for the same period of 2015/16.

This suggests that the number of hate-related offences has risen by nearly two-thirds during this timeframe, which covers the period before and after the Brexit vote.

In some cases, crimes may have taken place near schools and colleges, rather than on school property, such as walking home from school, or a crime may have been logged with an educational establishment as the nearest reference point, or as happening close by - such as opposite a school.

  • Race and ethnicity (71%)

  • Religion and beliefs (9%)

  • Sexual orientation (9%)

  • Disability (10%)

  • Transgender identity (1%)

When recording crimes, police can "flag" an offence as being motivated by different categories - race and ethnicity, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

Forces were asked to give details of these flags. In some cases, crimes had more than one flag.

By far the most common "flag" attached to an offence was race and ethnicity, accounting for 71% of all flags recorded in the last two academic years (2015/16 and 2016/17).

Religion or belief flags accounted for 9% of all flags recorded, the same proportion as sexual orientation, while disability accounted for 10% and transgender identity, 1%.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "It is disturbing to see an increase in reported hate crimes in schools and colleges. We fear this reflects a wider problem in society beyond the school gates.

"Over the past 18 months, school leaders have told us of a number of incidents in which pupils have been subjected to racial abuse by members of the public, away from school premises, as they go about their daily lives.

"It is relatively rare for hate crimes to actually take place in schools and colleges. Indeed, schools and colleges are havens of good values, promoting tolerance and respect, and often serving diverse communities.

"They put strong systems in place to ensure that staff are confident in addressing any type of discriminatory behaviour and that students are confident that they will be listened to in reporting any incidents. They educate young people about the importance of tolerance and respect, and consult with police over any serious incidents which occur.

"At a time when it often seems that our society is worryingly divided, schools and colleges are doing a brilliant job in holding it together."

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for hate crime, said: "Hate crime, particularly among young people, undermines the diversity and tolerance that we should be celebrating.

"All police forces take a robust approach to reporting crime and reassuring victims. Significant efforts have been made to improve our recording systems and to enhance our partnerships with educators and charities that support victims.

"The Crime Survey of England and Wales has indicated that the significant increases that we have seen in recent years have largely been due to these efforts and more victims having the confidence to come forward and report this kind of abuse to police."