Schools which teach pupils that “white privilege” is a fact rather than a contested viewpoint are breaking the law, the women and equalities minister has said.
Addressing MPs during a Commons debate on Black History Month, Kemi Badenoch said the government does not want children being taught about “white privilege and their inherited racial guilt”.
“Any school which teaches these elements of political race theory as fact, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law,” she said.
She added that schools have a statutory duty to remain politically impartial and should not openly support “the anti-capitalist Black Lives Matter group”.
Badenoch was speaking in response to Labour MP Dawn Butler, who had told the Commons that black children are made to feel inferior by what they are taught in school and history “needs to be decolonised”.
“At the moment history is taught to make one group of people feel inferior and another group of people feel superior, and this has to stop,” Butler said.
“History needs to be decolonised. You can go through [the] whole of the GCSE and not have reference to any black authors at all. You could go through history and not understand the richness of Africa and the Caribbean, you can go through history and not understand all the leaders in the black community.”
Support for moves to decolonise teaching in the UK have garnered substantial support in recent years, particularly at universities – although a Guardian investigation found only a fifth have committed to reforming their curriculum to confront the harmful legacy of colonialism.
The former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also backed the calls for decolonisation, while Labour frontbencher Abena Oppong-Asare pressed for a taskforce to look at diversifying the content taught in school.
“We want all our kids, all our children, black and white, every single corner of this country, to better understand our history so our children have a true sense of belonging within British culture,” she said.
Badenoch rejected the claims, insisting that history in schools “is not colonised”.
“We should not apologise for the fact that British children primarily study the history of these islands, and it goes without saying that the recent fad to decolonise maths, decolonise engineering, decolonise the sciences that we’ve seen across our universities to make race the defining principle of what is studied is not just misguided but actively opposed to the fundamental purpose of education,” she said.
Butler responded: “Sometimes, especially during Black History Month, it would be progress if [people] could acknowledge the systemic racism that not only existed then, but has a lasting legacy now in our structures, which doesn’t for any other group.”