More students are being suspended from school over complaints of racial abuse, new figures show.

Data released by the Department for Education shows the number of pupils excluded from lessons due to alleged racism has more than doubled in some areas.

The number has risen significantly since the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Brighton and Hove, six students were suspended over alleged racist abuse in the spring term of the 2022-23 school year. The figures are up on the previous year when four children were suspended in the same time frame.

Pre-Covid figures in 2018-19 showed three children were excluded.

In East Sussex, the number of students suspended has risen from seven before the pandemic to 42 in the most recent figures.


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One pupil was forced to find a new school after being permanently excluded due to racist abuse.

There was a similar sharp rise in West Sussex, where 52 pupils were suspended in spring 2023, up from 28 before the pandemic.

Becca Rosenthal, hate crime lead at the charity Victim Support, said schools are working harder to protect young people affected by racial hate.

She said: “This increase in suspensions and exclusions could be an indicator that schools are clamping down on this behaviour, rather than reflecting an actual rise in racist abuse.”

“Racist abuse has a devastating impact on young people, affecting their mental health and overall wellbeing.

“It can cause the breakdown of friendships and disrupt children’s learning, making victims unwilling to come to school. It’s vital that schools and youth services have the tools to tackle racist abuse and staff are confident in having challenging conversations.”

Brighton and Hove City Council said it has an anti-racist education strategy which provides support and training to schools - creating a "positive culture of inclusion."

Councillor Jacob Taylor, chair of the council’s Children, Families, and Schools committee; said: “Any incident of racism in a school is of enormous concern to us and we are committed to making sure all our schools are inclusive and welcoming places where all our students are respected.

"That is why we ring-fenced funding for our anti-racism work in schools in the budget for this year.

“We do not tolerate racism in any form in our schools or our city. We encourage all our schools to accurately report and respond to all prejudiced-based incidents, including racist incidents, and work hard to empower children and young people with the confidence to report any such incident."

At East Sussex County Council, teams are working with schools to address problems of racism.

A spokesman said: "All schools and academies in East Sussex work hard to support young people to be successful at school. Across the county, we work with school and trust leaders to ensure that all children are included at school.

“Most schools and academies in East Sussex strive to minimise the number of suspensions and exclusions, and permanently excluding a child is usually a last resort after other options have been exhausted.

“It is the headteacher’s decision whether to suspend or exclude a child and the decision is taken according to criteria laid down in the school or academy’s behaviour policy."

West Sussex County Council produced a document in 2021, called Promoting Equality and Tackling Racism, to give schools the best practices to tackle racism.

A spokesman said: "Our Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) regularly provide anti-racism training for school staff regularly provide anti-racism training for school staff, including governors, and run termly network meetings for schools who are working to promote equality and tackle racism. 

"We have also supported the Youth Cabinet to establish student-led equality ambassador schemes in a number of West Sussex schools.

"Our advice to schools is that all hate incidents should be reported as they occur to the Hate Incident Support Service, currently operated by Victim Support Sussex.  Further advice, ‘Hate Incidents Guidance for Schools’, is also available from our Community Safety & Wellbeing Team."