Race concerns as schoolchildren's attitudes towards English revealed

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Scotland show a "worrying hostility" towards English people and should be taught to curb their prejudice during anti-racism education, an Executive report has recommended.

The study into children's attitudes to ethnic minorities found education about the Holocaust improved tolerance towards other groups. However, there was still a hard core of racist attitudes in schools and up to a third of children displayed an "anti-English sentiment".

The report recommended English people be included in anti-racism education at schools in the short term and for further investigation in the long term.

The study, entitled Never Again! Does Holocaust Education Have an Effect on Pupils' Citizenship Values? questioned just under 100 primary pupils in the west of Scotland before and after Holocaust education and again at secondary school.

It found that after learning about the events of the Second World War, children's understanding of human rights issues and racism improved.

However, even after education, a hard core of 3 per cent of children still thought it was all right to make racist comments.

Also there was a low understanding of antisemitism, with just under a third of pupils aware of what it meant.

The study read: "This [the study] suggests that teaching the Holocaust can have some influence, but cannot eradicate racist attitudes as a small number persists."

There were also concerns over attitudes towards English people. In a separate question, children were asked if they were as likely to vote for an English person as a Scottish person in the Scottish parliament. A quarter of children disagreed in the first survey and more than a third disagreed after Holocaust education and in secondary school.

In comparison under 10 per cent of pupils disagreed with voting for a person because of religion, sex or disability by the third survey.

The study read: "There is still a worrying hostility towards English people and it is something that needs to be watched and combated, although there is perhaps a need to understand that it is possible that the pupils have a quite sophisticated understanding of the differences between oppressed and oppressors and that Scottish pupils in particular do not perceive English people as fitting into the category of the oppressed."

A possible explanation suggested for anti-English sentiment was the fact pupils may consider the Scottish parliament as an institution for Scottish people irrespective of their ethnicity.

To combat the issue, the study suggested further investigation and including English people and other groups who may not be perceived to be victims in anti-racist education programmes.

The study follows figures released by CRE Scotland last week that found anti-English incidents in Scotland rose substantially during the World Cup. The organisation received 13 complaints about anti-English racism in June, out of a total of 56. By contrast, in the month before the World Cup, there was only one complaint about anti-English prejudice. In 2005, just 5 per cent of inquiries received were related to being anti-English.

Ali Jarvis, the Commission for Racial Equality Scotland's interim director, said:

"People need to be clear that the Race Relations Act protects everyone from prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality or national or ethnic origin and promotes good race relations between all groups, and that discrimination and prejudice against someone on the grounds that they are English or indeed Scottish is unacceptable."

Holocaust education in Scotland is not mandatory but the Executive provides resources such as accounts from survivors living in Scotland to help schools include the subject in the curriculum.

A spokesman said: "Racism and intolerance in any form should not be tolerated by schools."

Fiona Hyslop, the education spokeswoman for the Scottish National Party, said children should be taught about mutual trust and respect between people of different races, countries and sexes.

She said: "It is about respect that is applied at every level and about identifying prejudice in whatever circumstances."