Schools in Oxfordshire have recorded more suspensions for racial abuse last year compared with previous years, 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 46 suspensions at Oxfordshire schools for racial abuse during the 2022-23 spring term – up from 34 across the same period the year before.

READ MORE: Man allegedly thanked student after 'raping' her in churchyard

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 Oxfordshire schools, pupils were suspended on 25 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.

“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,” Ms Rosenthal said. 

“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.”

Across the country, 20 pupils had to look for a new school after being permanently excluded for racial abuse – although none of them were in Oxfordshire.

There was a total of 3,652 temporary suspensions in the area – a 37 per cent increase compared to the year before.

On average, those suspended missed 3.3 days from school.

Pupils were also suspended for bullying 36 times.

Herald Series: New figures have been revealed on bullying in schools New figures have been revealed on bullying in schools (Image: PA)

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said these cases are linked to wider societal issues such as access to hateful and prejudiced online content.

“There is a wider issue about behaviour in general which we believe is linked to factors such as the erosion in local support services for families and children and unmet special educational needs," Mr Di'Iasio said. 

“More investment is needed in these areas as well as more regulation to prevent hateful online content.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said racism, discrimination and violent behaviour had no place in 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," the spokesperson said.

“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.”