Schools being ‘silenced’ by new political impartiality guidance from Government, teachers say

School classrooms in England are “being silenced” by new political impartiality guidance published by the Government, teachers have said.

Activists from the National Education Union said it was impossible to teach topics such as the British Empire in a “balanced manner”.

In February, the Department of Education published new rules aimed at clamping down on “woke” teachers.

The guidance says that teachers must be mindful of political impartiality when covering issues such as the British Empire.

For “recent historical events” including “those which are particularly contentious and disputed, political issues may be presented to pupils”, the guidance says. “This includes many topics relating to empire and imperialism, on which there are differing partisan political views, and which should be taught in a balanced manner.”

The guidance also says that teachers must not advocate for specific groups such as Black Lives Matter or promote the “partisan political views” of environmental pressure groups.

At the NEU’s annual conference in Bournemouth, delegates passed a motion labeling the guidance an “attempt to suppress critical debates”, and calling for the Government to make various teaching materials mandatory in schools.

Ellie Sharp, a teacher from Croydon, south London, said: “Our classrooms are becoming more and more silenced”.

“We are meant to give the other viewpoint, the opposing voice, even when it comes to racism and colonization within our curriculum, colonialism within history and steps at fixing the climate catastrophe.”

She said her pupils were “shocked by our history of our country, and its colonization of the world, yet I’m meant to give the opposing view?”.

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Michael Holland, a teacher from Lambeth, London, claimed that the Government “wants to suppress debate around such issues as imperialism, climate change and racism”. “They do not want children to know about big business and its unquenchable thirst for profit, which is the major driver of environmental chaos and injustice,” he said.

Camille London-Miyo, from Leicester, said the guidance was a “classic exercise in bureaucratic doublespeak” which was “explicitly designed to confuse and frustrate efforts by teachers and students alike to tackle crucial critical issues of political significance in the classroom”.

“How can you teach the oppression and exploitation of cultures and peoples in a balanced manner, unless you are the oppressor seeking to justify its actions?”, She said.

There have been several cases in which teachers have been accused of overstepping their duty to be politically impartial. A Nottingham primary school was thrust into the media spotlight in February when it emerged Year 6 pupils had written a letter criticizing Boris Johnson.

Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, has said that the guidance clarifies teachers’ existing responsibility to be politically impartial. When the guidance was launched, he said: “No subject is off-limits in the classroom, as long as it is treated in an age-appropriate way, with sensitivity and respect, and without promoting contested theories as fact.”

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