Call for antisemitism lessons in schools to combat ‘alarming’ spread of hate
Schools should be required to teach about contemporary antisemitism as part of a drive to combat an “alarming” rise in hatred towards Jewish people among British pupils, a Government adviser has said.
Former Labour MP Lord Mann, who now sits as a non-affiliated peer, urged ministers across the UK to take action after a recent investigation found antisemitic incidents in English schools almost trebled over the past five years.
The independent antisemitism tsar said the “growing spread” of cases among young people should be a matter of “deep concern” to everyone, as he warned such dangerous prejudices often lead to violence against members of the Jewish community, including schoolchildren.
A renewed and concerted effort is also required across all UK universities and colleges to create a safe environment for Jewish students, he said.
I urge the UK Government and the devolved nations to act on my new calls for action before this form of racism poisons the minds of many more young people
In a report proposing “major developments” in the fight against antisemitism, Lord Mann said the UK has “good reason to be proud” of its progress on the issue to date.
But he said it is important never to “stand still nor be complacent”, as he set out 10 key recommendations for how to challenge “gaps and weaknesses” in Britain’s current approach.
These include a requirement for secondary schools across the UK to introduce teaching on contemporary antisemitism in addition to lessons on the Holocaust.
The report warns of an “alarming growth” of anti-Jewish hate among young people, citing a survey of 1,315 secondary schools, carried out by the Henry Jackson Society think tank in July, which found antisemitic incidents rose from 60 in 2017 to 164 in 2022.
The investigation, based on data obtained through freedom of information requests, also revealed that only 47 of the schools that responded had any kind of formal, written policy that might help inform staff of the types of bullying taking place and how to deal with it.
Meanwhile, the report calls on the Government to work with online platforms to “eradicate” anti-Jewish hatred online, with those who fail to block it held accountable.
Ministers should also investigate barriers to reporting and prosecuting antisemitic hate crime, counter the spread of dangerous rhetoric from neo-Nazi groups, and pledge multi-year funding to protect Jewish communities, it says.
Lord Mann said: “The growing spread of antisemitism among young people should be a matter of deep concern to all of us, not least because it is often leading to hate crime and violence against members of the Jewish community, including schoolchildren.
“I urge the UK Government and the devolved nations to act on my new calls for action before this form of racism poisons the minds of many more young people.”
Mary Bousted, joint-general secretary of the National Education Union, agreed that the spread of hatred towards Jewish people is a “growing problem”, and backed the report’s call for all secondaries to be required to teach about contemporary antisemitism.
“Government should act on this recommendation, involving teachers in the work,” she said.
“But it must treat the fight against racism as indivisible. When ministers and MPs attack asylum seekers, they create a hospitable environment for xenophobia and actively obstruct the work of schools in teaching against race hate, including antisemitism.”
A Government spokesman said: “Antisemitism, as with all forms of bullying and hatred, is abhorrent and has no place in our education system.
“The atrocities of the Holocaust are a compulsory part of national curriculum for history at Key Stage 3, and we support schools to construct a curriculum that enables the discussion of important issues such as antisemitism.
“The Online Safety Bill will mean that what is unacceptable offline is also unacceptable online. Where the abuse is illegal, social media companies will need to take robust action to tackle it.”
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