Teachers warn pupils being directed to Holocaust denial online

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Teachers warn pupils being directed to Holocaust denial online

NASUWT teachers' conference hears how students are coming across vile far-right material online while researching homework projects.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

NASUWT annual conference in Birmingham (Jewish News)
NASUWT annual conference in Birmingham (Jewish News)

School children researching information on the Holocaust online for homework are being directed to articles written by those denying the Shoah, teachers have warned.

Speakers at the NASUWT teachers’ conference confirmed they were alarmed at the rise in pupils coming across far-right material online while researching homework projects.

Rachel Minto, from North Tyneside, told the conference: “A Google search on the Holocaust can bring up information provided by a Holocaust denier as easily as legitimate or sound historical documentation.”

She said it was an issue that “worryingly, children can accidentally come across this material whilst innocently researching for school projects. ”

A Google search on the Holocaust can bring up information provided by a Holocaust denier as easily as legitimate or sound historical documentation

Minto said children’s access to social media and smartphones meant they are “more at risk of being exposed to extremist material than ever before.”

She added: “Gone are the days when far-right information and propaganda was confined to the back rooms of seedy pubs and clubs.”

 Holocaust denial literature on Facebook

Candida Mellor, a French teacher also from North Tyneside, told the conference: “We need to actively educate our students about online infiltration of far-right messages.

“These insidious organisations use subtle tactics to indoctrinate very vulnerable children.”

Mellor called for more support for teachers. “I need educating on how to help my students to understand what these messages are and how to avoid them, how to understand how they’re affecting them.”

Danny Stone, chief executive of the Antisemitism Policy Trust told Jewish News that there was an issue with Google’s Safesearch facility.

“We know from our research that Google’s Safesearch does not work when it comes to filtering online antisemitism,” he said. “If one of the biggest companies in the world isn’t getting it right, it underlines the scale of the problem.

Conspiracy theory sites, including ones that promote Holocaust denial

More needs to be done to examine and address the problem of extremism within schools and colleges

“The forthcoming Online Safety Bill will improve protections for children online but there is much to do to ensure it is effective, not least ensuring it forces major search companies to improve the way their systems work so that they stop directing children to harmful content.”

During Monday’s NASUWT conference in Birmingham general secretary, Dr. Patrick Roach, called for more action to address the problem of extremism “as children and young people are often exposed to hate speech on social media and elsewhere. ”

General secretary Dr. Patrick Roach speaking at NASUWT conference in Birmingham.

He added: “More needs to be done to examine and address the problem of extremism within schools and colleges.

“Concerted government-level action is urgently needed to support schools in tackling the problem and to support pupils and teachers who have been targeted and victimised.’

Karen Pollock CBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “It is shocking that in 2022 there are still those who would deny or denigrate the Holocaust. Yet, Holocaust denial, along with other falsehoods, conspiracy theories and extremist content, sadly remains accessible at the click of a button.

“Holocaust denial is antisemitism, pure and simple. It should not be available online, in print or any other form. That’s why we ensure that teachers at all stages of their careers, in every corner of the UK, can take part in training and download our free classroom resources to help to ensure that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support students to always know the truth of the past.”

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