DfE issues detailed guidance on political impartiality in schools

The Department for Education has today published landmark new guidance on political impartiality in schools.

Under the 1996 Education Act, teachers are legally required to uphold impartiality in the classroom, however today marks the first time detailed government guidance has been released.

The new publication, which stress that teachers must not promote political movements such as Black Lives Matter, comes after concerns of political bias in schooling.

Last year the education select committee  advised schools not to use the term “white privilege”, as it “pits one group against another”.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi explained: “Clearer guidance on political impartiality is just one part of my wider work to give children the best possible education as the government continues to prioritise skills, schools and families, to enable young people to reach the full height of their potential.”

Headteachers are told that while staff can help students understand the facts and the law about racism, they should be careful to avoid promoting “specific campaigning organisations such as some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement”.

Commenting on the news, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “There is absolutely no need for new guidance on how to appropriately handle political and social subjects in schools. Very good guidance already exists and this is followed up and down the country. It has always been the case that educators take their responsibilities for teaching in these areas seriously and carry it out with considerable thought.

“We note Nadhim Zahawi’s intention that he ‘does not seek to limit the range of political issues that schools can and do teach about’. But in practice his guidance will have the opposite effect. Political Impartiality in Schools does not so much clarify existing guidance as add new layers of mystification and complexity to it. This could induce such a level of uncertainty and caution in schools about ‘political issues’ that they are less likely to engage with them.

“The losers in the Department for Education’s 34-page game of obfuscation about what is and is not a ‘political’ issue will be the students who are denied the opportunity to engage with the most challenging issues of our time. The warning lights that the government is flashing around climate change, racism, world poverty and the legacy of empire as topics of exploration are more likely to decrease students’ engagement with learning than to stimulate it.”