Any student political activity in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict should be carried out “sensitively” and should not create “an atmosphere of intimidation or fear” for staff and other students, ministers have told schools – Tes reports.
Education secretary Gillian Keegan has written to school and college leaders saying that behaviour that “extends into antisemitism or other discriminatory bullying” should be treated with “due seriousness”.
The letter also stresses that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation and it is illegal to encourage support for them.
“This would also be contrary to the British values that schools and colleges should promote and embody,” it says.
The letter, also signed by schools minister Nick Gibb and skills minister Robert Halfon, warns that recent events will result in teachers being put in “difficult positions” at school, as children ask questions and share opinions.
Some pupils, it says, may have been exposed to “false or inappropriate information outside of school”, making the teacher’s role even harder.
The letter adds: “We know that young people may have a strong personal interest in these issues, which could lead to political activity.
“Schools and colleges should ensure that any political expression is conducted sensitively, meaning that it is not disruptive and does not create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for their peers and staff.
“This includes not only where behaviour appears to celebrate or glorify violence, but also any expression of views that feels targeted against specific groups or stigmatises others.”
It adds: “In the past, we have seen how events in the Middle East are used as an excuse to stir up hatred against communities, including in schools and colleges.
“It is of the utmost importance that schools and colleges tackle this head on and ensure that where behaviour extends into antisemitism or other discriminatory bullying, it is responded to with all due seriousness.”
“We ask that you do whatever you can to actively provide Jewish and all young people with the reassurance they need and respond swiftly to any incidents.
The letter points schools to the department’s Educate Against Hate website and its guidance for helping schools teach political issues.