This section outlines the methods used to carry out our research into racism in schools.

Phase One

All state funded secondary schools in Cheshire, Halton and Warrington were invited to take part in the research. Half of the schools agreed to have some level of involvement and nominated a key member of staff to be our contact.

Staff Survey

A survey was sent to the key contact in each of the participating schools. The survey covered the following areas:

  • Background information about the school, including information on teacher and pupil ethnicity.
  • The number of racist incidents and incidences of bullying and harassment recorded in the school over the last year and last three years.
  • Details about school policies on racist incidents and race equality.
  • The levels of confidence among staff with regards to dealing with racism and racist incidents.
  • The types of training and support given to staff about race equality issues and racist incidents in particular.
  • Data on achievements and exclusions, broken down by ethnicity.
  • How racism and anti-racism are taught within school.

21 surveys were completed and returned.

Staff Interviews

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with staff who had completed the initial survey. These interviews covered similar questions and issues to those raised by the survey, but allowed the respondents to give much more detailed answers. A total of 16 interviews were completed.

Following the staff survey and interviews, we selected five schools to work with on the second data gathering phase. We attempted to chose as good a cross section of schools as possible, based on a number of criteria including location, the number of Black and minority ethnic students, number of reported racist incidents and the socio-economic make-up of the school.

Phase Two

Student Survey

Within the five selected schools, all students in years 8 and 11 were invited to complete a survey. The survey covered the following areas:

  • Background information including gender, ethnicity and age.
  • Views on how often students felt racism occurs within school.
  • Whether they thought their school dealt with racism well, saw it as an important issue and how confident they felt staff were in dealing with it.
  • Their views on how confident they would feel about talking to a teacher about racism or reporting a racist incident and if they had done either of these things, what their experience was like.
  • Whether they learnt about racism and anti-racism at school, the subjects in which they learnt about it and what they felt they’d learnt.
  • If they would report racist incidents outside of school to staff and whether they thought staff would attempt to deal with them.

1568 surveys were completed and returned.

Student Focus Groups

Ten focus groups took place with students from years 8 and 11 in the five selected schools. As with the teacher interviews, these covered similar questions to those in the student survey but again allowed for responses in greater detail.

Phase Three


Our ethnodramas consisted of four short dramas based on data we had already gathered, which were acted out by a group of MMU Community Arts students. Groups of 6-8 students from year 8 in each of the five schools were asked to watch each drama and then discuss the issues raised. The intention was that this would result in discussions that focussed around some of the emergent themes coming from our data. These themes included:

  • The use of racist language.
  • Racist ‘banter’ within or outside the context of friendship.
  • Stereotypical attitudes, beliefs and behaviour.
  • The influence of parents on young people’s attitudes towards minority ethnic groups or individuals.

Interviews with Black and Minority Ethnic Students

The final piece of data gathering is currently under way and involves semi-structured interviews with Black and minority ethnic (BME) students in the five schools. BME students are talking to us either on their own or with friends about their experience of school and these are proving to be striking case studies against which we can set our wider findings.


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