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Children as young as five are having innocent-sounding playground remarks logged as ‘racist incidents’ by primary school staff, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

They include comments that another child’s hair was ‘different’ and a pupil aged under 11 using the word ‘chocolate’ when asked to describe a classmate’s skin colour.

Education campaigners warn that formally recording the remarks as ‘racist incidents’ is based on a mistaken understanding of children’s behaviour.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that children as young as five are having innocent-sounding playground remarks logged as 'racist incidents' by primary school staff (Pictured is children in a school playground in early 2000s)

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that children as young as five are having innocent-sounding playground remarks logged as 'racist incidents' by primary school staff (Pictured is children in a school playground in early 2000s)

The Mail on Sunday can reveal that children as young as five are having innocent-sounding playground remarks logged as ‘racist incidents’ by primary school staff (Pictured is children in a school playground in early 2000s)

Critics say youngsters should be spoken to informally.

Using Freedom of Information laws, this newspaper received responses from a cross-section of 40 schools across the country out of 84 who were asked to provide incident reports from 2018 to 2021.

Many schools, including those in London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool and Brighton, record incidents on pupils’ files which can be transferred when they move to secondary school.

Others use a national database of the incidents for other teachers to access and monitor files. Earlier this year, it emerged that councils and local education trusts had recorded more than 60,000 racist incidents over the past five years.

Now, the MoS can reveal that schools have recorded a litany of seemingly innocuous incidents as racist.

One involving a five-year-old girl was deemed a ‘racist incident’ after comments about a classmate’s ‘different’ hair and ‘brown skin’.

An incident after England’s defeat by Italy in the Euros final noted how children told staff they were writing a book about ‘Terry the terrorist’ who was ‘going to Italy to kill all Italian football supporters’.

It was logged as racist.

And a nine-year-old boy was logged as creating a racist incident when he walked up to an 11-year-old girl and said ‘you’re a Turkey from Turkey’ before ‘pretending to be a Turkey in front of her’.

School leaders say they are encouraged to report all racist incidents to local authorities, though there is no legal requirement.

A primary education expert in London said cataloguing racist incidents was largely due to teachers ‘covering their backs’.

Pupils enjoy themselves playing on an artificial grass surface during break time at Kingsmead Primary School, east London. School leaders say they are encouraged to report all racist incidents to local authorities, though there is no legal requirement

Pupils enjoy themselves playing on an artificial grass surface during break time at Kingsmead Primary School, east London. School leaders say they are encouraged to report all racist incidents to local authorities, though there is no legal requirement

Pupils enjoy themselves playing on an artificial grass surface during break time at Kingsmead Primary School, east London. School leaders say they are encouraged to report all racist incidents to local authorities, though there is no legal requirement

The former headteacher, who is black and did not wish to be named, said: ‘If anyone could possibly think it [a comment] could be racist, it has to be recorded and then you’ve covered your back and it’s in there.

‘Children don’t have malicious intent a lot of the time, it’s not racism – teachers… feel very nervous so they report it.’

Adrian Hart, a researcher who uncovered the incident reports at Brighton schools, said: ‘The vast majority of the so-called ‘racist’ incidents we see schools recording are simply evidence of children behaving childishly.’

Dr Alka Cuthbert, head of education strategy at campaign group Don’t Divide Us, said: ‘The practice of making schools record and report on the behaviour of young children who can make mistakes, say wrong and hurtful things is doing far more harm than good. 

‘It is institutionalising difference, creating divisions, among children where before there were few or none, and it squashes any room for the give and take of genuine personal relationships. 

‘With this ideological practice, if there are few offences recorded it is likely to be because there will be fewer close relationships across ethnic lines.’

The National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Headteachers, the Local Government Association and Leeds City Council were unable to comment.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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