More than 250 hate crimes were committed against children in just one year, figures from West Midlands Police reveal.

And across the wider West Midlands region, there were 880 hate crimes where there the victims were under 18.

They include racist and religiously-motivated abuse.

The figures were provided by police to children’s charity the NSPCC, which said children were sometimes targeted for abuse after high-profile terrorist ncidents.

West Midlands Police recorded 257 hate crimes against people under 18 in the 12 months up to April 2017.

This was up slightly from 233 hate crimes the year previously.

Across the country as a whole, there were 5,349 hate crimes aimed at people under 18.

The NSPCC, which runs the Childline telephone helpline for children, published the figures as it launched a new campaign called Understand Me,

It said children are suffering in silence from physical bullying, verbal abuse, cyberbullying and racist name calling because of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or their accent.

The charity says it has provided almost 2,700 counselling sessions about race and faith based bullying in the last three years.

And it says there has been an increase in demand for counselling following terror attacks, with the number rising by over a third following the Westminster attack in March 2017, compared to the previous month.

Some young people contacting Childline said the abuse and negative stereotyping was so cruel they had self-harmed, or the bullying inside and out of school made them feel isolated and withdrawn from society. Others said they no longer wanted to go to school because they were worried about the abuse they would face.

NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said: “It’s heartbreaking to think that some children are targeted by bullies because of their race, culture or nationality. Racist jokes and negative stereotyping can be hurtful and leave young people feeling isolated and ashamed of who they are or where they are from.

“Our Understand Me campaign aims to reach out to all children who are experiencing racial or faith based bullying and make sure they know that they are not alone. No child should suffer in silence and anyone being targeted must be supported to tell someone and ask for help.”

Dame Esther Rantzen, President of Childline said: “Bullying of any kind is vile, but targeting someone because of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or their accent is simply unacceptable. Children are taking on board prejudices around race and religion in society and trading them as playground insults, with extremely harmful results.

“Young people should be encouraged to be proud of who they are. Racial bullying can be hard to cope with but young people need to know they don’t have to carry this burden alone. Childline is here for all young people and talking to someone might help them find a way to deal with the situation.”

Any child worried about bullying can call Childline on 0800 11 11. Any adult who is concerned about a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0800 800 5000.

Hate crimes recorded by police force 2016-17:

Staffordshire Police 123

Warwickshire Police 64

West Mercia Police 160

West Midlands Police 257