Teachers run shy of terrorism debate

14th September 2007 at 01:00

TEACHING ABOUT terrorism and religious extremism has become a minefield for many teachers because of prejudice among pupils.

After concerns from its members, the subject association for personal, social and health education plans to produce guidance on the topics, which have become increasingly difficult to teach after incidents such as the London bombings and attacks on New York.

One PSHE teacher in contact with The TES said she struggled to cope with Muslim boys who wanted to join an Islamic army. A head of religious education admitted abandoning teaching Islam as a stand-alone topic at GCSE because of hostility from white students.

The PSHE teacher at a secondary in a Midlands town with a large Muslim population said of some of her pupils: "They believe in the establishment of an international Muslim state and want to join an army to establish that state. It is very difficult to engage meaningfully with these radical young men when they do not believe in free speech or democracy."

A head of RE at a secondary in a largely white town in the North West said he had stopped teaching Islam alongside Christianity in Year 11 as students were so prejudiced.

Instead of teaching Islam separately at GCSE, he had moved to a different course in which it could be taught as part of a unit on prejudice and discrimination. "Some of our boys have what I would describe as a very right wing, British National Party view of Muslims. Even when you teach Year 7 about Islam, some children go on about Muslims trying to blow us all up."

The teacher said he invited a Muslim asylum-seeker to the school to try to combat pupils' prejudice. "At first, they asked him what he was doing coming here, but when they heard his story it opened their eyes," he said.

Jan Campbell, chair of the PSHE Association, said: "Some teachers might want to treat the whole subject as a can of worms and not go anywhere near it, but we need to open the can in a controlled way."

Mrs Campbell is calling on teachers to share their experiences on the association's website. The contributions will provide the basis for new guidance.

* www.pshe-association.org.uk

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