Williamson: Teachers have a duty not to indoctrinate

Education secretary says teachers must not influence pupils in 'improper ways'. Warning follows new DfE guidance banning 'extreme' resources

Catherine Lough

Gavin Williamson: Teachers have duty not to indoctrinate

Teachers are duty-bound not to "indoctrinate" their pupils with their own political views, the education secretary said today.

In a "fireside chat", at the virtual Conservative Party conference, with Peter Ashton, his former A-level government and politics teacher at Scarborough Sixth Form College, Gavin Williamson said teachers must create a "politically neutral environment in the classroom".

Asked how schools could ensure they remained politically neutral, Mr Ashton said: "If I’m teaching government and politics, my job is to explain the structure, the machinery of government, because that’s part of politics syllabuses.

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"And yes, you can discuss manifestos and so on and so forth - I mean obviously the teacher is alone in the classroom - but the teacher has a duty not to try and indoctrinate the pupils with their own views. You know I could have done that with Gavin, but I didn’t, I was, as I’ve said, strictly neutral, and that’s the way to do it. Would you agree?

Mr Williamson replied: "I do absolutely agree, and it’s not only just a matter of opinion it’s also a matter of law as well.

"The fact that you’ve got to have a politically neutral environment in the classroom, and we’ve recently published latest advice on RHSE actually emphasising the fact that schools, teachers have to be politically neutral.

"It’s important that we give people the context in order for them to be able to learn and then form their own opinions but they shouldn’t be influenced in an improper way and that’s very much what the guidance is.

"But impartiality in our education system, political impartiality in our education system is an incredibly important principle to uphold."

The DfE guidance highlighted by Mr Williamson states that schools must teach pupils that "no platforming" is "harmful", and warns against "cancel culture".

It also advises that schools must not use resources "produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters", and includes "a publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections".

The guidance has been criticised by some groups for limiting freedom of speech. The Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators (Care) and Black Educators Alliance (BEA) said the new guidance would stop schools from using resources created by Black Lives Matter or Extinction Rebellion. 

The groups are fundraising to mount a legal challenge against the new guidance if it is not withdrawn.


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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