education

Headteachers warned about ‘concerning’ rise of anti-Semitism in schools


Gavin Williamson has warned of the rise of anti-Semitism in schools – as one headteacher came under fire for telling pupils the Palestinian flag could be viewed as a ‘call to arms’ (Picture: Getty/Glen Minikin/Mercury Press)

The Education Secretary has urged headteachers to ensure ‘political impartiality’ over the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

Gavin Williamson issued the plea following a ‘concerning’ increase in anti-Semitic incidents – which he warned must be treated with ‘due seriousness’.

The recent violence in Gaza has drawn attention to the conflict in many schools – in some cases leading to the bullying of Jewish students and teachers, Mr Williamson said.

Many young people had a ‘strong personal interest’ in the issue – which has sparked some cases of ‘political activity’ among pupils, the minister added.

‘Schools should ensure that political expression by senior pupils is conducted sensitively, avoiding disruption for other pupils and staff,’ Mr Williamson said.

‘It is unacceptable to allow some pupils to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for other students and teachers.’

And in a message sent as schools in England broke up for half term, he reminded school leaders about 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,’ he said.

Police at Allerton Grange School in Leeds where the headteacher said the Palestinian flag could be viewed as a ‘call to arms’ (Credits: Glen Minikin)
Headteacher of Allerton Grange High School, Mike Roper, told pupils the Palestinian flag could be seen as a message of support of anti-Semitism

‘Pupils should be offered a ‘balanced presentation of opposing views’ when political issues are raised, Mr Williamson said.

‘Schools should not present materials in a politically biased or one-sided way and should always avoid working with organisations that promote anti-Semitic or discriminatory views.

Mr Williamson also said headteachers should not work with, or use materials from, organisations that publicly reject Israel’s right to exist.

It comes days after protestors demonstrated outside a Leeds school where the headmaster told pupils the Palestinian flag could be viewed as a ‘call to arms’.

Mike Roper, head at Allerton Grange School, said in a video assembly shared online how the flag could be seen as a ‘message of support of anti-Semitism’ and suggested it could make some feel ‘unsafe’.

But protestor Yasmin Ahmed described Mr Roper’s actions as ‘shocking and inflammatory’, insisting the protest was ‘peaceful’ and a way for pupils to display their ‘solidarity’ with Palestine over the crisis.

Mr Williamson says pupils should be offered a ‘balanced presentation of opposing views’ (Picture: PA)

Almost 200,000 people joined a ‘free Palestine’ protest through central London last Saturday.

The demonstration happened hours after a ceasefire was agreed in the wake of 11 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip.

Gaza’s health ministry said at least 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, died during the violence.

Israeli authorities claimed 150 of those killed were militants.

Two children were among 12 victims in Israel, according to the country’s medical service.

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