Bullying marked by 'racial aspect', conference told


RACISM:RACIST BULLYING is a growing problem in Irish schools and needs to be addressed, say teachers.

“There has always been bullying in schools but now it has taken on a racial aspect,” said Marian Cox of Balbriggan Community College, at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland annual congress.

“The recession will only make things worse as unemployed people see ethnic minorities working in shops and restaurants,” she said. “What happens in the community spills into schools.”

Intercultural training programmes for teachers are more important than ever, the union has claimed.

TUI deputy general secretary Annette Dolan said: “There is an attitude that the recession has put an end to immigration and that support for students is no longer a priority. The reality is that there are still thousands of children in the system that need support and teachers need the right training to help them.”

A behaviour and attitudes survey published this week found that 40 per cent of teachers in VEC and community and comprehensive schools had more than four minority ethnic students in their classes. Some 14 per cent taught more than 10 students from non-Irish backgrounds.

These teachers needed in- service training to integrate these students into the school community and deal with incidents of racism and bullying, Ms Dolan said. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment had produced a guidelines document of interculturalism, but there was currently no in-service training available to teachers.

“We will be approaching school management bodies to develop anti-racism policies for all community and comprehensive schools,” Ms Dolan added.

“Asking schools to develop their own policies is not enough. If we can draft a policy, with management bodies, they can work with schools on implementation. What is really needed is intercultural in service education for all teachers.”

There had to be an understanding and an appreciation of how to encourage interaction between different cultures, she said. This required an understanding of the values, identities and cultural nuances of different nationalities.

Home economics teacher Marian Cox has discovered challenges in teaching her subject to mixed ethnicity groups.

“A quarter of our students are from minority ethnic groups,” she said. “I have only recently encountered Muslim students in my class and there are issues around food and food preparation that I have had to learn from my students rather than getting training on this.”

There was no funding available for translation or interpretation, Ms Cox added. “People have rights in the courts system but not in the schools. It’s not professional to use students to translate and you just have to muddle through with parents.”

The attitude of Government is that minority ethnic groups are not coming to Ireland any more, she added.