Antisemitic Incidents within Schools
A letter from Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP
28 May 2021
Dear Headteachers and School Leaders,
ANTISEMITIC INCIDENTS WITHIN SCHOOLS
I am writing to you because of the concerning increase in antisemitic incidents in some schools.
Antisemitism is racism. It is abhorrent and, like other forms of racism, has no place in our schools. I know that you, like me, will want to take every action you can to ensure that such incidents do not occur.
Following recent events, I know there has been increased focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in many schools across England. In some cases, this has led to an increase in antisemitic incidents, including the expression of antisemitic views and bullying towards Jewish students and teachers. Where this does happen, we expect schools to deal with these incidents with all due seriousness.
I am aware that many young people will have a strong personal interest in these issues, and I am aware that in some schools this has led to political activity by older pupils. Schools should ensure that political expression by senior pupils is conducted sensitively, avoiding disruption for other pupils and staff. It is unacceptable to allow some pupils to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for other students and teachers.
I would also take this opportunity to remind schools of their legal duties regarding political impartiality. School leaders and staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately, particularly in the political views they express. When political issues are brought to the attention of pupils, including by the activity and political expression of other pupils, where this comes to the attention of the school, schools should offer pupils a balanced presentation of opposing views.
Schools should not present materials in a politically biased or one-sided way and should always avoid working with organisations that promote antisemitic or discriminatory views. Schools should be particularly wary of potential bias in resources which claim to present the conflict in a balanced manner. Schools should not work with or use materials from organisations that publicly reject Israel’s right to exist.
There are reputable organisations that can support schools to teach about this sensitive topic in a balanced way, avoiding antisemitic and other discriminatory narratives. These include Solutions Not Sides, the Community Security Trust (CST) and the Forum for Discussion of Israel & Palestine (FODIP).
Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP
Secretary of State for Education
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