28 May 2021

Williamson sounds warning over anti-Semitism in schools

28 May 2021

Headteachers have been told by Gavin Williamson to ensure “political impartiality” over the Israel-Palestinian conflict, following a “concerning” increase in anti-Semitic incidents.

Mr Williamson said the recent violence had increased focus on the conflict in many schools, which in some cases had led to the expression of anti-Semitic views and bullying of Jewish students and teachers.

He said schools should treat these incidents with “due seriousness”.

The Education Secretary said many young people had a “strong personal interest” in the issues around the conflict and in some cases that had led to “political activity” by older pupils.

“Schools should ensure that political expression by senior pupils is conducted sensitively, avoiding disruption for other pupils and staff.

“It is unacceptable to allow some pupils to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for other students and teachers.”

In a message sent as many schools in England broke up for half-term, Mr Williamson reminded heads of their “legal duties regarding political impartiality”.

“School leaders and staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately, particularly in the political views they express.”

Pupils should be offered a “balanced presentation of opposing views” when political issues are raised, he said.

“Schools should not present materials in a politically biased or one-sided way and should always avoid working with organisations that promote anti-Semitic or discriminatory views”

They should not work with, or use materials from, organisations that publicly reject Israel’s right to exist, he added.

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