SCHOOLS in Essex recorded more suspensions for racial abuse last year, new figures show.

The Victim Support charity said schools should be encouraging pupils to develop skills to challenge racism when they see it, so those being targeted feel supported by their peers.

Department for Education figures show there were 126 suspensions at Essex schools for racial abuse during the 2022-23 spring term – significantly up from 91 across the same period the year before.

This follows the national trend, with 3,779 suspensions for racial abuse recorded across English schools – a 21 per cent rise from spring 2021-22.

The figures also show a substantial increase compared to spring term in 2018-19, before the pandemic, when there were 1,690 such temporary exclusions.

In Essex schools, pupils were suspended on 55 occasions during this period.

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

She said: “So, 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 is vital that schools and youth services have the tools to tackle racist abuse and staff are confident in having challenging conversations.”

A Department for Education spokesperson added: “Racism, discrimination and violent behaviour have no place in our schools, nor in society.

“The Government is very clear it backs head teachers to use exclusions where required, so they can provide calm, safe, and supportive environments for children to learn in.

“We are providing targeted support to schools to help improve behaviour, attendance and reduce the risk of exclusions with an investment of £10 million in our Behaviour Hubs programme, and our mental health teams who will reach at least 50 per cent of pupils by 2025.”