Advice for NASUWT members and Representatives

The NASUWT is extremely concerned at the extent of increased incidences of abuse, prejudice, xenophobia and racism as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19), particularly against Chinese and other East Asian ethnicities and those perceived to be from these communities.

Misinformation and false reporting about the coronavirus, its causes and how it is spread have fuelled fear and panic and in some cases led to the ostracising of people of East Asian heritage and others perceived to be ‘foreign’ or an ‘immigrant’ within the UK.

Unfortunately, schools and colleges are not exempt from the associated xenophobic and racialised stereotyping of Chinese and other East Asian people. The NASUWT has received reports of increased covert and overt racial attacks perpetrated against some minority ethnic pupils and NASUWT members linked to coronavirus concerns.

The NASUWT has published advice on the health and safety implications arising from the coronavirus and what teachers and schools need to know about travelling abroad to countries at risk.

What you need to know if you are the victim of racist abuse

The NASUWT opposes all forms of racial harassment and bigotry and is committed to challenging and countering this growing problem.

Schools and colleges should ensure that any abuse or harassment associated with the coronavirus is treated seriously and acted upon immediately.

Schools and colleges must have in place procedures to address all forms of racism, to eradicate racist incidents and to deal with the perpetrators of such incidents.

Any physical or verbal abuse associated with the coronavirus should be considered by schools as a potential racist incident and must be dealt with seriously.

All schools and colleges are bound by legislation to protect staff and pupils from racial discrimination, harassment or abuse.

Schools and colleges should have reporting mechanisms for incidents of harassment, bullying and discrimination, including arrangements for reporting such incidents directed against staff.

Schools and colleges should also have in place appropriate plans to minimise the risk to staff and pupils. They should undertake appropriate risk assessments, examining any workplace hazards, identifying any persons at risk and ensuring that measures are in place to control the risk.

Schools and colleges should arrange with staff how any issues will be addressed as part of classroom discussions and take appropriate steps to ensure that all staff understand their roles and responsibilities when dealing with incidents in schools. Schools and colleges should further ensure that staff are provided with clear and accurate information so that they can reply to questions raised by pupils.

Where a member has witnessed or been targeted with racial or other abuse associated with the coronavirus, the following actions should be taken:

  • keep a personal log of the incident, including date, time and names of the person(s) involved and any witnesses;
  • report it to the designated lead in your school or college. This may be the headteacher/principal or your line manager. Ensure this is also logged in a written form and formally acknowledged;
  • contact the NASUWT Workplace Representative or the Union’s National or Regional Offices for advice.
  • complete the school/college incident report form and keep a copy. If your physical or mental health has been affected, log the incident as a health and safety incident and visit your GP or a medical professional immediately. Logging the incident is vital in ensuring that appropriate action is taken;
  • consider whether it is appropriate to report the incident to the police. It is recommended that members contact the Union before doing so.

All members are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.