Archive for October, 2020


Are campaigners against exclusions willing to tolerate sexual assault in schools?

October 26, 2020

Every so often I get told that nobody wants to ban all exclusions from schools. Therefore, I’m told, extreme examples like sexual assault are not relevant to the debate on permanent exclusion. Nobody would tolerate sexual assault, or think that the interests of the perpetrators of sexual assault are more important than the victims. The existence of the campaigning group “No More Exclusions” campaigning for no more exclusions was not sufficient evidence that these extreme views exist.

Today, I was directed to evidence of just how extreme this group is. On their webpage (no link as it seems to have been suspended since I accessed it) I read their Frequently Asked Questions document. In it they clearly state their aims:

No More Exclusions is an abolitionist movement. That means we want to stop exclusions altogether – abolish the whole process of exclusion.

Incredibly, instead of just ignoring the real danger some young people present to their peers, they actually address the question “What about sexual abuse and violence in schools?”. In a section that begins with the words “Sexual violence is a serious issue. However…” they explain that they don’t think young sex offenders should be punished. This might be concerning enough, but the explanation of their alternative to exclusion is actually staggering. Adult authority over children turns out to be the true culprit in sexual assault and the only culprit they would seek to confront.

Abuse is about power, and it is also important to address abuse by adults towards young people in schools and other institutions. As children we are taught just to accept the authority of adults, and this can lead us to learn to ignore our own sense of discomfort.

By creating a culture of consent, not just among students but also between students to staff, we both allow young people to have their agency and also make them less likely to want to transgress someone’s else’s boundaries, encouraging people to respect each other and hold themselves to account. By contrast, in environments in which their consent is constantly violated, young people might wonder: “Why should I care about someone else’s boundaries if mine are always being transgressed?”

That, is their answer to sexual assault in schools: end adult authority over children, and hope it makes young sex offenders respect their victims’ boundaries. Speaking of victims, incredibly there is also a section answering the question: “What about the Victims?” While the answer speaks of support for victims, it then tries the most outrageous argument yet.

Another important question to consider is who we count as a victim. So often when we talk about victims and perpetrators, we focus only on situations involving interpersonal violence, ignoring people who are harmed by state and structural violence – for example people experiencing the everyday violence and material deprivation caused by economic inequality and racism. The education system should recognise these forms of harm and ensure that those experiencing it are also supported.

Exclusion is a humiliating experience; it is the violent removal of a child from the classroom. We need to challenge and remove violence from our classrooms, not respond violently by excluding children, even those who have acted violently. No teacher should consider a child to be unteachable. Instead we need a model where the victim of violence can experience justice, for example by explaining their feelings so that the perpetrator can understand the harm they have caused. The perpetrator should also be allowed to explain what made them angry and violent and be given room to reflect on the way they acted.

If you are reacting to this like I have, with shock, then remember the No More Exclusions campaign has been given plenty of publicity and airtime. It seems to have particularly strong links with some activists in the NEU. While teachers have largely remained reluctant to speak out on the issue of exclusions, for fear that their schools will be accused of not being inclusive, campaigners against exclusion have dominated the debate without anyone much holding them to account for their extreme views and the danger they would put children in.

Another No More Exclusions document, is still available here. On page 10 it lists people and organisations they claim as supporters. Tempting though it is, I’ve decided not to include that list here, just in case it’s not accurate. But I do encourage you to look at that page and see that this is apparently not a fringe organisation, this is the mainstream of educational campaigning, and it’s dangerously irresponsible.



Teachers describe their anti-racism training

October 25, 2020

A few of my recent posts have touched on ideas around whether schools may be accepting bad ideas around racism, or push contentious political ideas about racism to students.

I’m clearly not the only person concerned about this, as equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has recently made a speech about race that included comments on the teaching of contentious ideas such as White Privilege in schools.

A couple of teachers have recently told me their experiences of training and consultancy on issues relating to race. I have more direct confirmation of the first account than the second, but I know that both are teachers and see no obvious reason to doubt them.

The first account is from a large MAT’s very recent CPD session on race,

Early in the session it was explained that race is internalised. We internalise it as a victor or as superior: we benefit and see status from our race. Or we internalise it as inferior, with feelings of self hate and resentment. The session then went through a series of terms to be defined. Privilege was explained as how white people are able to access society without barriers, without their skin colour being an impediment and without having to over-prove themselves, unlike a person of colour. It was explained that there is some controversy over the usage of the term ‘white privilege’ but that it was a fact. A result of this is fragility. This is how people feel attacked or defensive. This is apparently understandable and normal but needs to be challenged. If we are uncomfortable and not happy with how this has all been experienced, it’s because we have internalised our race and our privilege and our fragility is a response to this.

More was discussed, including the difference between equality and equity. Various case studies were used to show legitimate and important examples of how racial views have interfered in schools, such as not dealing with race based bullying or staff members who feel marginalised because of their race. The need to understand the trauma of racism was discussed and how this can lead to lifelong problems that need addressing.

A final section focused on a discussion of ‘Power and Rank’. This made clear that the basis of the whole discussion was about the power dynamics between different groups. This was described as ‘formal power, informal power, local rank, psychological rank, spiritual rank.’ Each of us have power but that varies and affects our ‘rank’ and [the speaker] argued that ‘Going into a bank, I might have less rank in those situations.’ I found this hard to follow and wasn’t quite sure what our rank referred to. A rank like a position? Or a rank like a rank order? We were asked to consider: “Where do you believe you have rank/power privilege? How does it feel? Where do you not have it? How does that feel?”

We were told that we need to be aware of unconscious bias and to consciously use our power to help the powerless. As the session finished she was asked a question about Kemi Badenoch’s statement to parliament about CRT [Critical Race Theory] and not teaching these things as uncontested facts. She said she believed that Kemi had an incomplete understanding of CRT and was clutching more at the stereotype of it. My thoughts on this were mainly a real discomfort at being told theoretical ideas as uncontested facts. This wasn’t put forward as a debate or discussion but an explanation of racial power dynamics that were entirely seen through a CRT lens. The circular logic is presented as fact and makes any rejection of the theory merely a ‘fragile’ response. To disagree is to have internalised racism as a net benefit and to resist and rest that being adjusted. There is simply no disagreement without confirming the theory even further.

The other account comes from a teacher whose school paid for the services of a consultant to help decolonise the curriculum.

In a different school to the one I teach in now, we had a famous consultant harangue the staff for our harsh treatment of BAME pupils, noting that they accounted for almost all detentions and all FTEs [Fixed Term Exclusions]; he didn’t respond well when it was explained that the school was 97% BAME.

He also had a go at the English department about Macbeth as being evidence of systemic racism, and often played in blackface.

“You’re thinking about Othello.”

“No, Macbeth.”

“No, I can confidently tell you that Macbeth has never been played in blackface.”

He did concede that Macbeth might have been intended to be white after I explained that there were four characters in all of Shakespeare coded as black and only three were people, but he stubbornly insisted that I could not prove that Macbeth had never been performed in blackface.

It admittedly wasn’t a good idea to welcome him into my classroom to observe a GCSE lesson, but I didn’t expect to hear him accuse me of manifesting ‘white supremacy’ in front of a class of 32 with only one ethnically white British pupil. The kids thought he was rude and unhinged.

And that’s my cautionary tale about inviting in consultants to ‘decolonise [your] curriculum’ (He evidently did the same thing in the 100% BAME led and taught maths department and got short shrift). I think it was imagined he’d have meaningful insights as to educational equality and diversity. He ended up berating white males as an abstract entity – there were 3 in a staff team of 140 – and misunderstanding every aspect of the curriculum he was faced with.

I leave it to the reader’s judgement to decide whether these two examples represent practice that is either good or legal.


Attachment Myths

October 24, 2020

There seems to be a sudden upsurge in talk about attachment lately, so I thought I’d let you know about a book chapter on this topic I wrote a year ago. It can be found in The REsearchED Guide to Education Myths, edited by Craig Barton and published by John Catt.

My chapter is entitled Attachment Myths and reviews some of the strange ideas about attachment teachers are often led to believe. Details and references can be found in the book, but I thought I’d give you a short preview of the content here.

At the time of writing, the importance of attachment and “attachment disorder” had recently been mentioned in the Timpson Review of School Exclusions as a significant issue relating to behaviour in schools. Yet it has been disputed whether attachment has any predictive power for behaviour at all; there is no single condition called “attachment disorder”, and significant concern has been raised about the popularity of incorrect ideas about attachment.

Attachment is an infant’s deep emotional bond to a primary care giver. The two big names in the study of it are John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, whose work spans several decades. Many of their ideas have since been challenged and revised within mainstream psychology, but their ideas have also been developed in quite disturbing and even dangerous ways by those outside the mainstream, which means teachers need to be careful not to be misled by fringe thinkers.

Most importantly, there are pseudo-scientific “controversial attachment therapies” that have been implicated in the deaths of several children and the abuse of many others. Advocating little more than deliberate cruelty to make a child feel powerless, these ideas are often promoted to the worried parents of adopted children. While I have not heard of these ideas being used in schools, teachers should be aware that they need to be careful to avoid these dangerous cranks if they search online, or ask on social media, for information about attachment.

More common in schools, but still very misguided, is a belief in a single condition called “attachment disorder” that is common in adopted or fostered children that results in challenging behaviour. While there is a condition called “Reactive Attachment Disorder” (and in some diagnostic manuals another condition called “Disinhibited Attachment Disorder”) this is relatively rare and should not be assumed to underlie the difficulties maltreated children may have. Even where children have a history of maltreatment there are many other associated conditions that might underlie behaviour problems. Additionally, there is no real consensus on treatment for RAD, and teachers should be aware that many who claim RAD is an important cause of bad behaviour, and that they have a treatment for it, will be the advocates of “controversial attachment therapies”.

Finally, there are claims that attachment theory itself may be useful to teachers. While this may be true, teachers should be sceptical about unsupported claims. There is not a strong body of evidence for applying the insights of attachment theory to older children. Additionally, anthropologists have come to doubt whether attachment theory describes universal behaviours of human beings, rather than western cultural norms of child rearing. Do not be blinded by claims to scientific authority which go beyond the evidence. Teachers have every reason to ask questions when any claims are made to them about attachment.

As well as my chapter on attachment myths, The researchED Guide to Education Myths, although short, also contains chapters by Clare Sealey, Doug Lemov, Greg Ashman and many others on a wide variety of topics.


The Strange and Controversial RSE Guidance Part 2

October 17, 2020

In my previous post I began discussing the recent RSE guidance. Please read that post first, as I continue the discussion here.

Is the guidance addressing real concerns?

One of the obvious complaints to make about the new RSE guidance is to suggest it was unnecessary, particularly at a time like this. I think the concern that a problem hasn’t been proved to exist is often overstated. When people ask if there is evidence that a problem the government seeks to address is real, I’m acutely aware that we often apply a double standard. For many years schools were attempting to deal with the problem of FGM, even though there had literally been no convictions (the first conviction in the UK was in 2019). Asking schools to look out for a problem is often part of the process of gathering evidence that there is a problem. For this reason, I’m not prepared to say you must prove there is a problem before action is taken, although that is a valid concern if the action is costly or has significant down sides. Where action is cheap and convenient, like a few words of guidance, then reasonable suspicion that a problem exists is enough.

So is there an issue of political bias in schools? In almost 20 years of teaching I have never encountered a teacher showing political bias in the classroom (although there was a TA once). Many teachers I know have very different experiences with this, although I’ve noticed almost all of those who tell me that teachers have been blatantly biased in the classroom in their experience have worked in London. Before the guidance came out, I would have said classroom bias was an insignificant issue. However, some of the online criticism of the guidance I’ve seen since it did come out seems to suggest that a significant number (although not necessarily a large proportion) of teachers were unaware of their statutory obligations to be balanced and impartial. Some teachers have been arguing quite explicitly that such an obligation is unreasonable. While I suspect scrutiny of what is taught about bias in teacher training might be more useful than new guidance, I accept there is an issue to be addressed.

The other part of the guidance where some expressed doubt there is an actual problem is over gender identity. In particular, does any external organisation that works in schools teach that, “non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity”?

I think there’s a few points of evidence that the organisation Mermaids, despite denials, has promoted that view (although I cannot confirm this has occurred in schools).

This slide – note the toys at the bottom – was used in a training session for the police:

The Mermaids website used to claim the following:

And a factsheet Mermaids wrote, still used by some LAs, said this:

So, again, I am convinced the guidance is addressing a genuine issue, although I don’t know how common it is in schools.

Myths about the guidance

Finally, it is worth mentioning some of the sheer nonsense in the reaction to the debate over the guidance. According to the Guardian:

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the measures effectively outlawed reference in schools to key events in British history, and that it symbolised growing “authoritarianism” within the governing Conservative party…

…McDonnell said: “On this basis it will be illegal to refer to large tracts of British history and politics including the history of British socialism, the Labour Party and trade unionism, all of which have at different times advocated the abolition of capitalism.

“This is another step in the culture war and this drift towards extreme Conservative authoritarianism is gaining pace and should worry anyone who believes that democracy requires freedom of speech and an educated populace.”

This is obvious nonsense, but several myths seem to have circulated:

  1. It’s a new law. It’s guidance. The law already included obligations to be politically neutral. Having the guidance makes it harder to break the law and say that was unintentional, but it only clarifies existing obligations.
  2. The guidance is about all subjects. It is not. It was about RSE. While teachers existing obligations apply across the curriculum, this clarification was rather specific. Claims that it affects teaching in history and English are baseless.
  3. It bans teaching about injustice. You can refer to injustice without creating “divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society”. Or at least you should be able to. It seems unlikely that such a phrase refers to uncontroversial facts, rather than highly controversial political statements.
  4. The guidance refers to all critics of capitalism and all “anti-capitalists”. The guidance warned about groups that have “a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow … capitalism”. If one wants to interpret this as referring to everyone to the left of Milton Friedman, one can, but it would make more sense to see this as referring to revolutionaries.
  5. The guidance is about what can be studied. The warnings about extreme groups referred to “resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances”. The examples given in the guidance are:
    • lesson plans
    • complete curriculum plans
    • other classroom materials such as videos or posters

    This would indicate teaching resources, i.e. resources designed for teachers, rather than anything and everything a teacher might ask students to study. So even if the guidance did apply to other subjects, it wouldn’t prohibit historical sources or works of literature.

I said last time that there were some odd phrases in the guidance, as if it was intended to contribute more to online culture wars than the classroom. However, I think the worst criticism that can be made of it is that it is a trap intended for teachers. And this is why the angry reaction to it was ill-judged, because if somebody sets a trap for you, throwing yourself into it is not a good idea.


The Strange and Controversial RSE Guidance Part 1

October 11, 2020

In my last blogpost, Ends and Means, I mentioned the obligations on teachers to be politically neutral. In particular, I referred to the Education Act 1996 which outlines those duties.

406 Political indoctrination.

  1. The local authority, governing body and head teacher shall forbid—
    (a) the pursuit of partisan political activities by any of those registered pupils at a maintained school who are junior pupils, and
    (b) the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.
  2. In the case of activities which take place otherwise than on the school premises, subsection (1)(a) applies only where arrangements for junior pupils to take part in the activities are made by—
    (a) any member of the school’s staff (in his capacity as such), or
    (b) anyone acting on behalf of the school or of a member of the school’s staff (in his capacity as such)…

407 Duty to secure balanced treatment of political issues.

  1. (1) The local authority, governing body and head teacher shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils while they are—
    (a) in attendance at a maintained school, or
    (b) taking part in extra-curricular activities which are provided or organised for registered pupils at the school by or on behalf of the school, they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.

Recent government guidance on RSE apparently seeks to give some more guidance about how this is to be achieved in RSE lessons, with reference to contemporary issues affecting RSE.

What’s strange and controversial about the guidance?

The guidance has some surprising features, most of which I would suggest seem to reflect recent online debates and controversies. In a section on external agencies, alongside reminders that reflect the legislation quoted above and the need for familiarity with the values of external organisations providing training in schools, it states:

Schools should not under any circumstances work with external agencies that take or promote extreme positions or use materials produced by such agencies. Examples of extreme positions include, but are not limited to:

  • promoting non-democratic political systems rather than those based on democracy, whether for political or religious reasons or otherwise
  • teaching that requirements of English civil or criminal law may be disregarded whether for political or religious reasons or otherwise
  • engaging in or encouraging active or persistent harassment or intimidation of individuals in support of their cause
  • promoting divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society
  • selecting and presenting information to make unsubstantiated accusations against state institutions

Some of this seems to just reflect, fairly enough, obligations that already exist. The reference to “promoting divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society” must have puzzled many people who are not already involved with debating cultural politics online. In recent years, there have been online “culture wars” relating to race, sexuality and gender in which the status of particular groups as oppressed or marginalised has been of key importance. While few people would deny that racism, sexism or transphobia exist, there have been heated arguments about the relative severity of different forms of discrimination, and how some of the key terms should be applied. This is likely to be due to the phenomena, (described here as “identitarian deference”), whereby debates are to be resolved by blindly accepting the views of those assumed to be speaking for the most marginalised identity group. This has ensured the importance of establishing from one’s identity characteristics whether one has victim status and to what extent. To those involved in such discussions, which often take place online, “divisive or victim narratives” is easy to understand as referring to claims that some groups are always to be almost always recognised as victims, and some rarely or never are. But without that background in online discourse, the reference to “victim narratives” must be thoroughly confusing in a way government guidance really shouldn’t be.

In a section on resources, it is stated that:

Schools should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters. This is the case even if the material itself is not extreme, as the use of it could imply endorsement or support of the organisation. Examples of extreme political stances include, but are not limited to:

  • a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections
  • opposition to the right of freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly or freedom of religion and conscience
  • the use or endorsement of racist, including antisemitic, language or communications
    the encouragement or endorsement of illegal activity
  • a failure to condemn illegal activities done in their name or in support of their cause, particularly violent actions against people or property

Providing one reasonably\ interprets the meaning of “resources” as something used to study a subject rather than the object of study (i.e. a worksheet rather than an example of a political poster) this seems reasonable. It’s really not obvious why you would get your lessons plans from revolutionary groups. However, the mention of “capitalism” is provocative. Presumably there could be an argument to be made that seeking to “abolish or overthrow… capitalism” is not extreme, although I’ve yet to see anyone make it without interpreting the phrase in ways that seem unlikely to reflect what was intended, or apparently ignoring it entirely.

A section on ensuring content is appropriate includes this section:

We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.

Gender identity is incredibly controversial at the moment in online discourse, with battle lines being drawn and redrawn every day and calls to ostracise people for expressing the wrong views on gender identity, or even not expressing the right ones, are very common. While I could link to thousands of examples of this, the best possible (but rather lengthy) discussion of cancel culture and gender identity I have ever seen is in this youtube video which, whether you agree with it or not, vividly illustrates how fraught this debate has become.

Further controversy has been caused, not by the guidance itself, but a slide in one of the training modules advising teachers to:

Explain the harm caused by ‘cancel culture’ and the importance of freedom of speech and freedom of association to a tolerant and free society.

Teach that censorship and ‘no platforming’ are harmful and damaging.

Explain that seeking to get people ‘cancelled’ (e.g. having them removed from their position of authority or job) simply because you disagree with them, is a form of bullying and is not acceptable.

If one believes, as I do, that “cancel culture” is a form of bullying and that freedom of speech is both a human right (when threatened by the state) and a British value (when threatened by anyone) then this is not inconsistent with what exists already. However, I can’t help but see this as being in a particular type of language that I have mostly encountered online and stemming from online culture wars, rather than education concerns.

So overall, I’m not disagreeing with the guidance, and I’m absolutely convinced that the government has a right to do this, but I do find myself wondering about why some of the language has been chosen, and whether some of the controversy was caused deliberately.

In Part 2, I will look at whether the guidance addresses real problems, and some of the myths about it.





Ends and Means

October 4, 2020

In recent years I’ve started to fear that, politically, people have lost sight of the difference between the ends and means in politics. Democracy and the rule of law are not ends; they don’t always turn out well. We cannot be sure the right people are always elected or the law is always fair. Democracy and the rule of law are means; they are a way to achieve our ends. Democracy is a set of rules for who takes power, justified by the way it allows peaceful transitions and gives rulers an incentive to pay attention to the ruled, rather than a way to ensure that the best people are always in power. The rule of law is not preferable because of any claim that laws are always beneficial, fair and well drafted. The rule of law is preferable because it prevents the arbitrary use of power and allows legal challenges to those who would exceed their powers. A similar argument can be made for those human rights that apply in the political sphere. The rights to hold our own beliefs, to have freedom of speech and to associate with people of our choosing are not rights that will always be used to achieve good things, but they are a means that should be available to all. It is only by giving those rights to everyone that we can ensure they are always available to those who would use them to achieve good things. Finally, we could also consider virtues and behaviours we might wish for from the participants in a democracy, like thoughtfulness, honesty and moderation. I could add to these a preference for rational debate over personal attacks and a tolerance for disagreement. These things often seem lacking at the moment from politicians and public alike. But again, if they are desirable in political life, they are means rather than ends. We should see them as something we want from everybody (or nobody); those we agree with and those we disagree with. They shouldn’t be something we attack our opponents for lacking, while being unembarrassed to see that those we support also lack them.

Obviously this is an education blog rather than a political blog, but before I apply the idea of a difference between ends and means in politics to education, I’ll apply it to politics generally. I should point out that I’m biased about the places where I’ve noticed this distinction is lacking. It stands out to me most in debates where I may agree with people about political ends, but not their means, so this is mainly a gripe about others I see on the left of centre. It concerns me that up until last December, many of my fellow “remain” voters were arguing that the result of the EU referendum be ignored even though they’d never have argued this if they hadn’t lost. It concerns me that there are campaigns to put newspapers I disagree with out of business through corporate pressure via advertising, even though we’d never think it was fair if corporate power was used to silence people we agreed with. It concerns me that there are now people on my end of the political spectrum arguing that certain types of speech should be banned for being offensive, even though we would argue for our own rights to offend the sensibilities of those we disagree with. And don’t get me started on those who make excuses for violent protests when they sympathise with the cause, and are horrified by violence, or even protest, from those they feel are less enlightened.

We need to be able to consider means apart from ends. We cannot say “this is a good way to achieve a political end, because it will enable us to get our way” if we would never accept that it was fair for others to use it for their ends. If getting our way is the only thing that matters, we should not complain when those we disagree with are equally ruthless in pursuit of their goals. There is a fallacy of special pleading, where people make arbitrary exceptions to general principles. If we think it is desirable for our opponents to follow certain rules, or adhere to certain standards of behaviour, then it is “special pleading” to say that we needn’t bother with that because our cause is just. And, if that doesn’t seem right to you, then you perhaps need to ask if you really want a political system where there are no universal rules or universal principles.

There’s been a few debates in education in the last year or so that have worried me because teachers seemed unaware that in a democracy we should all play by the same rules. The first, was the debate over the climate strikes. People argued that it was acceptable for schoolchildren to truant from school in order to protest over climate change. When asked whether it would be acceptable for children to be absent from school to protest about other causes, particularly ones they disagreed with, that was invariably “different”. It was simply to be accepted that those with strong beliefs about the importance and urgency of climate change did not have to follow the same principles as those less enlightened people with different concerns. Then there was an outbreak of debate about racism, after the death of George Floyd and we saw the same argument again that this issue was “different”. Particular views about race, whether that was the existence of white privilege or systemic racism; the rightness of the Black Lives Matters movement, or the effectiveness of implicit bias training were not open to debate. These views could be imposed on schools without debate, or the need to find any kind of consensus, because racism was a special case. Opinions were to be treated as facts when they were the right opinions according to those who would never tolerate the imposition of a wide variety of other viewpoints that are equally, or less, controversial. Those who argued that teaching British values in British schools was outrageous, argued that teaching Critical Race Theory was essential.

Finally, there was a fuss over recent SRE guidance. There’s enough controversial elements of that guidance that I hope to blog about it properly, but incredibly there were teachers arguing against it, not because of the controversial parts, but because they felt entitled to push their political views, and even extreme political views, in the classroom. People who would complain if a teacher expressed right-wing views on social media, were happy to argue that left-wing views should be preached in the classroom. Apparently many had no idea that the Education Act 1996 requires schools to forbid “the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school” and “secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils… they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views”. Some even argued that this, a legal requirement, was impossible and should be ignored.

We need to remember that however deeply we hold our views, those who disagree are not so different that they need to be given different rights, or held to different standards. Teachers tend to be more left-wing than the electorate. If we argue that schools are to be used for indoctrination, we will find that the precedent this sets won’t actually favour the views of the teaching profession, but the views of the government of the day. If you don’t want British governments to use schools to indoctrinate our students, we need to stop arguing that we should be doing the same thing ourselves.

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