Almost a third of schoolchildren believe that Muslims are “taking over our country” according to the largest study of its kind carried out in the UK.
A survey of almost 6,000 children aged 10 to 16 across England found that negative attitudes towards migrants and Muslims were widespread among school pupils.
The data, based on questionnaires sent to more than 60 schools across the UK by charity Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) between 2012 and 2014, also found that 60 per cent of children questioned believed “asylum seekers and immigrants are stealing our jobs”.
The survey’s results come shortly after Labour MP Tristam Hunt’s embarrassing encounter with a schoolchild, who told the shadow education minister that he would vote Ukip because he would “like to get all the foreigners out of the country”.
SRTRC chief executive Ged Grabby said the results demonstrated more needed to be done to combat far-right extremism and cautioned what message younger people were taking from the media.
“This survey shows that this is fuelled by a totally distorted view of the number of immigrants and Muslims living in the UK,” he told The Guardian.
Of the 5,945 children survey across England, 49 per cent agreed with the statement that migration was out of control or not being managed properly.
University of Manchester professor Hilary Pilkington cautioned that the results were “not evidence of widespread racism among young people” but instead an indication of “anxiety – often based on inaccurate information”.
41 per cent of children did not think that “Muslims are taking over England” and just under half (47 per cent) thought that relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were poor.
But Dr Paul Jackson from the University of Northampton, who also worked on the research project, was pessimistic - despite acknowledging some young peoples’ “gap between the reality and perception on issues”.
He said: “The subsequent levels of hostility towards these groups is very worrying and is something that we, as a society, need to take seriously.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies