School teachers ‘struggling to deal with impact’ of Gaza war on pupils, poll reveals

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School teachers ‘struggling to deal with impact’ of Gaza war on pupils, poll reveals

One in five pupils in London expresses antisemitism, 50 percent of teachers avoid talking about Gaza and 8 percent of pupils attend anti-Israel rallies

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Children in Tower Hamlets attending a protest.
Children in Tower Hamlets attending a protest.

Teachers in this country are struggling to deal with the impact on students of Israel’s fight against Hamas in Gaza.

The on-going conflict is also leading to an alarming rise in antisemitic behaviour from students, a new poll has revealed.

Anti-racism charity HOPE not hate surveyed 4,646 secondary school teachers to find out how they were handling issues arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the classroom.

While 52 percent of teachers said that students are discussing the conflict in Israel and Gaza, a worrying 50 percent of them also said they do not feel confident in addressing the issues arising amongst students about the conflict in the Middle East.

The poll, conducted on 29 January via Teacher Tapp, also showed how antisemitic and Islamophobic views have surged amongst pupils in recent months.

In London, 17 percent of said students were displaying behaviour which could be considered antisemitic when discussing the conflict, while 11 per cent of teachers across all regions also confirmed anti-Jewish racism in pupils.

Meanwhile 7% of teachers said that students were displaying behaviour which could be considered Islamophobic when discussing the conflict.

In response to the demonstrations taking place, both in support of the Palestiains and in support of Israel, just 1% of teachers said that students were joining public demonstrations in solidarity with the Jewish state.

While 8% said that students were joining demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinians.

Kibbutz Nir Oz after Hamas attack

Responding to the poll, Dave Rich, director of policy at the Community Security Trust (CST) said: “We have seen an worrying rise in antisemitic activity in schools since 7 October, much of it linked to the conflict, and it is vital that schools and teachers know how to recognise any antisemitic language and behaviour when it occurs and take appropriate action.

“Schools should be places of learning where all children are treated equally and fairly, and it is important that discussions about this issue are managed in a balanced and sensitive way so that Jewish students do not feel isolated or targeted.”

The revealing survey also confirmed that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a polarising issue that teachers are struggling to deal with in schools.

While 52% of teachers said that students are discussing the conflict in Israel and Gaza, 22% of them said that pupils were distressed at what they were viewing.

Meanwhile 21% of teachers said that pupils were angry with what they’re viewing.

The poll also saw 18 percent of teachers confirming they had witnessed pupils arguing with other pupils about the conflict.

The results appeared to back claims by teachers who say they need more support to address issues arising amongst students about the conflict.

58 percent of teachers said their school is not willing to appropriately address issues that might emerge related to the Middle East conflict. This fell to 47 percent for teachers in private schools.

Only 3 percent of teachers said they had the training to deal with issues like the Middle East conflict, while 11% said that their school had the resources to support them in dealing with issues or problems in school related to the issue.

Meanwhile, 18 percent said they know where to go externally to get assistance.

Headteachers (67 percent) and those in a Senior Leadership Team (59%) had higher levels of confidence than classroom teachers (36%), the lowest ranking teachers in seniority, to deal with issues arising from the conflict.

Misbah Malik, Senior Policy Officer at HOPE not hate said: “HOPE not hate has found that teachers are not confident in being able to handle issues arising in the classroom around the Israel-Palestine conflict. “As well as this, there’s a concerning number of teachers reporting antisemitic and Islamophobic behaviour from pupils when talking about the conflict.

“Schools are important places to foster cohesion and fight hate, but they need the right support, training and resources to be able to do so. Government guidance must go further in order to support teachers and achieve this aim.”

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