|Volume 52 Number 3, February 20, 2022||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Education unions have condemned the government's new guidelines on political discussions in the classroom.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: "Engaging with political issues is a vital element of pupil's education and learning, helping them to understand and explore different views and develop their own judgements and opinions.
"The vast majority of schools fully meet their legal responsibilities on political impartiality, which relies on the professional expertise and judgement of school leaders and teachers, and we are pleased this new non-statutory guidance recognises that. Schools are already highly skilled in this area and take the need for political impartiality extremely seriously.
"Schools must be enabled to feel confident in approaching political, sensitive or controversial issuesin the classroom and this guidance should offer clarity and support where that is needed. There remains a risk that it could create unnecessary anxiety or fear about tackling these issues and we must ensure that does not come to fruition."
NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "There is absolutely no need for new guidance on how to appropriately handle political and social subjects in schools. Very good guidance already exists and this is followed up and down the country. It has always been the case that educators take their responsibilities for teaching in these areas seriously and carry it out with considerable thought.
"We note Nadhim Zahawi's intention that he 'does not seek to limit the range of political issues thatschools can and do teach about'. But in practice his guidance will have the opposite effect. Political Impartiality in Schools does not so much clarify existing guidance as add new layers of mystification and complexity to it.
"This could induce such a level of uncertainty and caution in schools about 'political issues' that they are less likely to engage with them. The losers in the Department for Education's 34-page game of obfuscation about what is and is not a 'political' issue will be the students who are denied the opportunity to engage with the most challenging issues of our time.
"The warning lights that the government is flashing around climate change, racism, world poverty and the legacy of empire as topics of exploration are more likely to decrease students' engagement with learning than to stimulate it."