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Racism on the rise in Wales’ schools MSs told

20 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Jenny Rathbone, Chair of the Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee

Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

Children as young as three-years-old are involved in racism, with prejudice on the rise in Wales’ schools, a Senedd committee has been told.

The Senedd’s equality committee took evidence from Race Council Cymru and Cardiff University as part of an inquiry on the Welsh Government’s anti-racist Wales action plan.

Uzo Iwobi, founder and chief executive of Race Council Cymru, told MSs that children are increasingly facing racism-fuelled physical and verbal attacks while at school.

She said: “In one week, we had 15 phone calls from schools across Wales narrating different incidences of racism involving children as young as three, which is horrific.”

Prof Iwobi stressed that racism is learned behaviour as she highlighted the need to educate parents as well as pupils.

She added: “One of the little girls refused to come to school because she had been told she should live on a tree because her family looked like monkeys or some words to that effect.”

Hate crime

Prof Iwobi warned that official rates of reporting of hate crime have dropped while contacts with charities, such as Race Council Cymru, have significantly increased.

The barrister and law lecturer told MSs that communities do not have confidence in the police, saying people have reported incidents in the past but nothing has changed.

She recalled a vicious attack on a 14-year-old boy outside school by two white children which parents did not want to report to authorities.

“Many people are beginning to feel like this is everyday racism,” she said. “This happens to us time and time and time again.”

She added that Race Council Cymru was advised to cancel black history celebrations in Llanelli this year due to the negative reception of asylum seekers.


Prof Iwobi raised concerns about a significant increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia due to the Israel-Gaza war.

She told the committee that women wearing Hijabs in particular are increasingly facing hate, citing the example of a Muslim who was egged on the streets of Cardiff last week.

She said community leaders report that Wales is almost no longer a safe place to be Jewish.

Prof Iwobi said: “Sadly, with the protests ongoing – it has resulted in more targeting against others who are not protesting.

“It is a very frightening experience to be out there involved in community work at this time.”


The committee heard that ethnic minorities are overrepresented in almost every aspect of the criminal justice system.

Prof Iwobi described the prison system as clearly institutionally racist and biased against black men in particular.

She called for an overhaul of the justice system and a roll-out of anti-racism training.

Robert Jones, a lecturer at Cardiff University, highlighted sentencing disparities and a lack of trust in the legal profession during the meeting on Monday November 20.


Raising concerns about the lack of a disaggregated picture for Wales, Dr Jones described the Ministry of Justice as “almost geographically illiterate”.

By contrast, MSs heard that Home Office data – which is broken down by police force – shows disproportionate use of stop and search on black and mixed ethnic groups in Wales.

Dr Jones warned that evidence is lacking: “Before we even begin to think about tackling the problem, our understanding of the problem still has some way to go.”

He called for investment in research to provide more of an in-depth understanding, saying the Wales Governance Centre is working on a Welsh criminal justice observatory.

‘Jagged edge’

In written evidence, Dr Jones described racial disproportionality within criminal justice in Wales as systematic and consistent.

He pointed out that many of the necessary levers to tackle racism are not devolved, raising concerns about the “jagged edge” of the Welsh justice system.

“Wales is unique, it’s an anomalous system,” said Dr Jones.

“It has a legislature and an executive that doesn’t have the justice function – the only common law country in the world to have that anomaly.”

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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
6 months ago

‘Welsh governments’ anti racist action plan’. A commendable aim and one, no matter how long, hard and far challenged, must be stuck to implacably. The Welsh Labour government, however, is officially a unionist and, therefore, a British Empire supporting endeavour. We will not be able to implement this plan as long as they tinker with the idea that the status quo can remain. Clear ‘Red Water’ beyond that of the Rhodri Morgan age must be the starting point working rapidly towards a political (surgical) amputation of the Empire. That will be total, fully autonomous and complete Independence. Only then can… Read more »

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