Teachers steering clear of Israel-Gaza debate, says Government adviser

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Teachers steering clear of Israel-Gaza debate, says Government adviser

Dame Sara Khan said teachers were steering clear of controversial issues because of fears of intimidation and harassment and feel ill-equipped to address the issues.

Dame Sara Khan
Dame Sara Khan

Schools in England are running the risk of “fuelling anger, hate and polarisation” by avoiding debate about the Israel-Hamas conflict, according to the Government’s independent adviser on social cohesion.

Dame Sara Khan said teachers were steering clear of controversial issues because of fears of intimidation and harassment and feel ill-equipped to address the issues.

She told The Guardian: “There is no doubt that the conflict has had a direct impact on schools.

“There is a desire among some pupils to talk about what is happening in Israel-Palestine yet many teachers feel ill-equipped to talk about the conflict while also being conscious that they are expected to uphold their legal duty to remain impartial.”

Delegates at the National Education Union annual conference in Bournemouth next week will debate whether the union should publish and circulate educational resources to “increase understanding of Palestine and Israel”.

“In the absence of resources to facilitate such discussions in an educational setting – which are needed especially when a great deal of propaganda and disinformation exists online – some schools are closing down any legitimate dialogue which can have a potential effect of further fuelling anger, hate and polarisation,” said Dame Sara.

The comments come days after the publication of Dame Sara’s review into threats to social cohesion, which said there was not enough guidance on teaching controversial issues.

A Government spokesperson told The Guardian: “Teaching children a range of viewpoints is vital, but we have been clear this must be done in line with our impartiality guidance.

“We know navigating these issues can be challenging, which is why we provide teachers with extensive advice and resources through our Educate Against Hate website.

“This includes practical advice on promoting cohesion and challenging radical views, as well as providing quality-assured materials for use in the classroom.”

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