Independent report: Schools still failing to tackle racism


British schools are failing to implement recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry some 10 years since the report was published.

A Swindon school where a boy was brutally attacked with a hammer simply failed to recognise or properly record a series of violent racist incidents prior to the most serious assault taking place. Race equality campaigners have long complained that British schools are failing to implement important recommendations from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.

Henry Webster was brutally assaulted with a claw hammer in a racist attack by four Asian youths, all of whom were convicted.

Four teenagers - Wasif Khan, 18, Amjad Qazi, 19, and two boys aged 15 and 16, were found guilty of the attack. Nazrul Amin, 19 and two teenagers had previously admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Henry, just15 at the time of the attack, suffered three skull fractures after being set upon by a racist gang attack in 2007. The independent review showed the school was at fault as they failed to spot growing racial tensions emerging between Asian and white pupils..

Henry's s mother Mrs Webster told the BBC:

"This review has confirmed our belief that the Ridgeway School was responsible for the horrific, devastating assault on our son which has left him with permanent injuries. The review doesn't mention what needs to be done to improve race relations in Swindon, which is an urgent concern considering the considerable increase in the vote for the BNP."

Henry has since returned to part-time education, but still suffers from debilitating injuries and acute short-term memory loss.

The report summary, published by the Swindon Local Safeguarding Children Board, said:

"The school, although it knew in advance, did not prepare for the arrival of a significant number of British Asian students in 2005."

The review, which made 32 recommendations for action, also found there were some incidents between white and British Asian pupils which were not recognised as racist by the school.

The report summary said:

"The report acknowledges that there was some success in the measures taken to address the racist behaviour of some white pupils in a small part of the school. However this approach was not extended throughout the school.

"The school, by trying to deal with these incidents themselves, missed the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what was actually going on through external intervention. Other agencies did not challenge robustly the school's approach or its procedures."

The summary added:

"The Webster family felt marginalised after the attack and have had to take extreme steps to generate a proper response."

Thirteen people, including teenagers, were convicted over the assault on the tennis courts at the school in 2008 and given custodial sentences. Henry’s family launched civil proceedings against the school, which affected the completion of the serious case review. They lost a battle for criminal injuries compensation at the High Court in February.

Mike Howard, independent chair of the Swindon Local Safeguarding Children Board, said:

"I hope that the Webster family, and in particular Henry, regard this report as a thorough examination of the events around the dreadful attack which he suffered, and it will help them all to move on."

He added:

"I am sorry that what was already an extremely distressing experience was made worse by the lack of co-ordinated support they received from some agencies."

A spokesman from Ridgeway School, in Wroughton, said:

"We could not have foreseen or prevented the dreadful attack on Henry Webster. We are sorry that the family feel that they were not supported adequately following the attack. We have noted the recommendations contained within the report, and as with all schools we always look to improve our practice and will continue to ensure that our community which remained incredibly strong after the incident, continues to do so and is responsive to the changing world we live in."

The increasing diversity of British schools requires that teachers, pupils, parents and local communities must work together in ensuring that schools remain places of safety. The sad case of Henry Webster and Ridegway school demonstrates that importance of schools adopting clear and robust anti racism policies that can effectively head off and challenge racist behavior among pupils.

The sad reality is that UK schools shy away from tackling racism at the expense of their pupils and the wider community.