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Cardiff schoolchildren are increasingly vulnerable to extremism, new study finds

With more than 250 people in Wales being flagged over concerns about extremism, what are Cardiff schools doing to address this rise?

A recent report found that schoolchildren are particularly susceptible to extremism.

With a recent article by the BBC showing a drastic increase in the levels of extremism flagged to Police and local councils, schools across Wales are being pressured to make drastic changes to reduce this.

This is not a new phenomenon, however. The BBC reported in 2016 that Show Racism the Red Card Wales had noticed a substantial rise in schools contacting them for help in dealing with extremism.

Students defined racism in terms of culture, religion, nationality and skin colour. “It’s about being horrible to other people because of their religion, their colour, different background, different country – or like, just sometimes do it for fun”, said a Swansea boy in a report by the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales (EYST).

According to this team, at least half of the discussion participants have witnessed and/or experienced a racist incident at school.

Racist bullying incidents can include racist abuse, physical threats or attacks, wearing of provocative badges, bringing racist comics or leaflets to school and inciting others to behave in a racist way, said Bullying UK.

“You need to make a complaint to the police if the school doesn’t sort out racial bullying. Most police forces have school liaison officers who should be able to warn the bullies off.”

The far right issue poses a larger threat in Wales than Islamist extremism, and has grown as a movement since the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump, said Mr Hendrickson, co-ordinator of Resilience, a charity run by the EYST.

The United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST was first developed by the Home Office in early 2003, and revised in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2018. The aim of this strategy is “to reduce the risk to the UK and its citizens and interests overseas from terrorism, so that our people can go about their lives freely and with confidence,” according to HM Government in 2018.

If you know someone that is being bullied you could offer to go with the targeted person to tell the school or their family, says Education Wales. “You may find joining a new club, taking up a new interest or activity, or doing other things you enjoy during lunchtime or after school may help.”

Estyn argues that racist language, bullying and inter-racial conflict can be important indicators of radical or extremist views. All local authorities are expected to monitor these incidents in their schools, including racist bullying.

The Welsh Government should place a statutory duty on schools to record all incidences and types of reported bullying following a definition of bullying formed following full consultation with children and young people, says the Sam’s Story report on bullying.

“Schools in Wales should adopt a Child Rights Based Approach to Education and promote a culture that supports children to learn about rights and respect the rights of others.”

Reporter Jez Hemming weighed in on a specific instance of racism. “I hope the majority of these children were just sheep, following the crowd. Perhaps some of their parents really are card-carrying racists,” said Hemming. “I’m sure individually most would be ashamed to see their kids acting like that. I was.”

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