TEACHERS are branding nursery schoolchildren, who are no older than four, as racist.

In two nursery schools in North Hertfordshire, pupils have been reported to the Local Education Authority (LEA) for racism.

Herts County Council has refused to identify the nurseries. “We don’t want it to be a naming and shaming exercise,” said a spokesman.

There is concern that playground spats between children who are unlikely to understand the meaning of their words are being treated as hate speech.

Mohammed Alam, the director of North Herts Minority Ethnic Forum, said: “I think they would need to be seven or eight before they can understand what they are saying.

“Children pick up words from friends and family members.

“I have heard some children making comments but it’s difficult to prove it’s racially motivated.

“Sometimes children say things without any malice.

“It’s about education, rather than labelling them.”

Civil liberties group the Manifesto Club used the Freedom of Information Act to compile a report of incidents lodged as racist or homophobic by UK schools with LEAs.

The figures in the report – called Leave Those Kids Alone – show that in 2009/10 a total of 1,092 racist incidents were reported in Hertfordshire – three in nurseries, including two in North Hertfordshire, 567 in primary schools and 92 in schools for children with special needs.

In 2009/10, reported homophobic incidents totalled 92 in Hertfordshire.

The Manifesto Club is calling on the Government to relax anti-bullying legislation and encourage schools to deal with these issues in-house.

The author of the Leave Those Kids Alone report, Adrian Hart, said: “The imposition of official anti-bullying policies on schools brands children racist or homophobic at a young age.

“Children need space to play and to learn the meaning of words, without being reported to the local education authority.

“These policies are an inappropriate intervention into playground life.

“Children have a tendency to engage in petty insult exchange and banter involving words they invariably don’t understand.

“There is a world of difference between racist abuse and playground spats. Blurring this difference does nothing for equality.”

A spokesman for Herts County Council, the LEA, said that levels of reported bullying and racist incidents have fallen steadily over the past four years in Hertfordshire schools.

He added: “Records are kept centrally and confidentially by schools to ensure that incidents have been managed appropriately, fully resolved and that all individuals are confident and happy.

“No record is placed on an individual child’s file and the record is confidential within the school.

“Hertfordshire County Council provides support and guidance to schools to promote positive relationships and effective management of hurtful and upsetting incidents.”

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