'End the hate, spread the love' - Schools unite with anti-racism message
- Credit: Mick Howes
An inaugural football festival has been hailed a success as an important 'Schools Against Racism' message echoed out.
Children all took to the knee before the start of matches at Red Oak Primary, as four schools in the Lowestoft area united to spread an anti-racism message.
And on Friday, the school on Southwell Road hosted its first ever Schools Against Racism football festival.
Children from Pakefield, Westwood and Grove primary schools joined Red Oak Primary youngsters to take part in a day of anti-racism football activities as well as a football tournament where they all took to the knee as they showed support for the 'Kick it Out' campaign.
The year five and year six pupils from the four schools all congregated in the sports hall for a lesson from Johnny Lee, PE and sports co-ordinator at Red Oak, who explained how racism is not acceptable in football or society.
"Today is about ending the hate and spreading the love," Mr Lee said.
Pupils learnt about the negative impacts of racism on famous sports stars past and present, before hearing about the racism and social media trolling the England players - such as Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka - suffered at Euro 2020.
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They then designed a series of posters in their school groups as anti-racism football themed artwork was created for #SchoolsAgainstRacism displays that could then be showcased at their schools.
Mr Lee said: "We want to get the 'Schools Against Racism' message into schools across the country."
Numerous #SchoolsAgainstRacism football campaign videos were then devised by the individual schools so they could be used on their school’s social media pages to spread the Schools Against Racism message to other schools, before a football tournament was successfully held in the afternoon.
The Red Oak team also launched their new kits - black and white anti racism kits, featuring one black sock and one white sock.
Mr Lee said: "We went for a black and white theme to symbolise the anti-racism message.
"Each kit is numbered and with a different unique name on the back like Love, Hope, Peace, Friendship, No War and so forth.
"There was great sportsmanship and respect shown from all players during the tournament with the final positions seeing Red Oak in first, Pakefield in second, Westwood third and Grove fourth.
"All of the players received Schools Against Racism medals and certificates for taking part."
'Let's use education as a tool to tackle this'
Speaking after the inaugural festival, Mr Lee added: "In the past few years, racism in sports - particularly football - seems to have got much worse.
"The racism that England players received in Euro 2020 really highlighted the problem.
"We know that the most popular sport in the UK is football and the majority of our students love to play, support and watch football on a regular basis.
"Every few weeks there seems to be a new, major racist incident linked to football reported in the national news and many people keep saying ‘it has to stop’ - yet nobody seems to actually say, let's use education as a tool to tackle this.
"That is why our school set up the Schools Against Racism campaign and project where we want all schools in the UK to do much more in educating their students about the issues with racism and internet trolling in football and society.
"We believe that if schools teach children about the past and current issues with racism in football and how it affects its victims, then those children will grow up to be respectable citizens who embrace diversity, peace, equality and love and as a result despise racism.
"Our aim is to get The FA to work with us so that we can have the Schools Against Racism framework adopted by all schools around the country.
"We want this project to go national so that all children around the UK have the opportunity to learn about racism in football and society and how it is unacceptable."