“Miss, are you going to vote Ukip?” I was standing in front of my teenage maths students in the run up to the last general election. The school was in a Conservative safe seat. In our mock election the Tories had come first, with Ukip second. I knew the student well and I knew the question was asked out of curiosity rather than as an attempt to derail my lesson. The Guardian reports.
Without thinking I laughed – a spontaneous belly laugh that surprised some of my students. I explained it made no sense for me to vote Ukip, and that as the granddaughter of Caribbean migrants it was possible I wouldn’t even be standing in front of them if Ukip had been in power, given the party’s views around immigration.
Warning teachers against expressing political views carries a whiff of censorship. And those who call for political opinions to be stifled tend to oppose only the expression of views that conflict with their own.
At the moment, teachers will be facing a barrage of questions about Brexit. Pupils will want to know what their teachers’ views are. Should there be another referendum? Were we lied to? These are issues that directly affect the lives of pupils and their families. Why shouldn’t teachers tell them what they think?
The government now requires teachers to be instruments of the state, to “actively promote” British values via the Prevent strategy. DfE guidance suggests we do this through our curriculum. So what is taught in schools is directly affected by a strategy that is deeply political.
I don’t know a single teacher who wants their students to be radicalised. But for the government to direct schools to promote the political agenda of the day, while asking teachers not to express their own views, seems hypocritical.
School leaders have traditionally been more neutral. That changed recently, in dramatic fashion. In the same month the DfE released its staff guidance on acting “appropriately”, 2,000 headteachers marched on Downing Street to protest about the effect of school funding cuts
Every teacher wants the best for their pupils. If that means opposing the government while it squeezes money from schools and makes patronising announcements about “little extras” while fumbling towards a confused Brexit, then so be it. The only people offended are those who want to uphold the status quo or whose wealth and privilege protect them from potentially momentous change and uncertainty.
Read the full article Teachers are facing a barrage of questions about Brexit. They can’t stay quiet
Should teachers be allowed to express their opinions? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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