Headteachers told to monitor pro-Palestinian intimidation in schools

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Headteachers told to monitor pro-Palestinian intimidation in schools

Education Secretary recommends implementation of anti-extremism measures if required in wake of abuse targeting Jewish pupils and teachers.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is writing to all headteachers to remind them of their legal requirements for political impartiality following a spate of incidents involving pro-Palestinian activism at schools.

Jewish News understands the secretary of state will stress schools must not present teaching materials on an issue such as Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians in a one-side way.

Williamson’s letter will also warn school heads that they must not allow allegations and instances of antisemitism in schools to go unpunished.

The letter will also encourage school heads to implement procedures under anti-extremism measures if necessary and will stress that schools “should not work with or use materials from organisations that publicly reject Israel’s right to exist”.

Williamson is also understood to be sending a separate letter to Jewish stake holders to reassure them he is aware of the increased focus on pro-Palestinian activity in schools.

The letter, which is being sent to the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the Community Security Trust, also reaffirms the education secretary’s commitment to ensuring the IHRA definition of antisemitism is respected.

In it Williamson states: “I know there has been an increased focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in many schools across England. In some cases this has led to an increase in antisemitic incidents, including the expression of antisemitic views towards Jewish students and teachers…. we expect schools to deal with these incidents with all due seriousness.”
He will also stress that schools “should not work with or use materials from organisations that publicly reject Israel’s right to exist.”

The letter to heads will also warn it is “unacceptable to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for students or teachers”.

Meanwhile, Jewish News understands that the Board will also write to schools expressing concern that teaching staff, as well as pupils are being subjected to one-sided, offensive, and sometimes antisemitic material in relation to the debate over Israel and Palestine.

Redbridge Borough Council have this week written to parents after a spate of pro-Palestinian protests were allowed in classrooms.

It warned that while strong feelings have been aroused on the issue protests that ” lead to any other student or adult being treated unjustly, then that is not acceptable.”

A headteacher at a school in Leeds faced angry protests after he attempted to explain that some were using the Palestinian flag as “a call to arms.”

Jewish News is aware of Jewish teachers who have faced abuse at schools for expressing solidarity with friends and family in Israel during the recent conflict.


The education secretary’s letter sent to the Jewish Leadership Council

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