MPs clash over cash for Auschwitz school trips

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY LEON SY­MONS

LABOUR MPS in Scot­land have launched a scathing at­tack on ri­val par­ties over fund­ing for vis­its to Auschwitz by sec­ondary-school pupils.

The SNP and the Tories joined forces to push through a de­ci­sion in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment that schools should de­cide for them­selves how to spend £150,000 given to Scot­land by West­min­ster — and that there was no re­quire­ment for the money to be spent on the Auschwitz vis­its.

In Fe­bru­ary, the Con­ser­va­tive leader David Cameron raised hack­les when he ap­peared to sug­gest that gov­ern­ment fund­ing of Auschwitz vis­its for schools was “a gim­mick”.

Labour shadow ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Ken Mac­in­tosh, who tabled an amend­ment to try to en­sure the money would be spent on the vis­its, said: “This is very con­tro­ver­sial. I am still at a to­tal loss as to why the SNP and the Tories didn’t sup­port my amend­ment.

“I think what they have done is in­com­pe­tent, nar­row-minded and short-sighted. I can­not tell you how dis­ap­pointed and de­pressed I am by the men­tal­ity of peo­ple that would come up with this.

“The min­is­ter [Mau­reen Watt] said she wanted to visit Auschwitz but she has now de­nied Scot­tish school­child­ren the same op­por­tu­nity.”

Europem­i­nis­terJimMur­phy,Labour MP for East Ren­frew­shire at West­min­ster, said on his per­sonal web­site: “It is shame­ful that the Tories and SNP have voted that Scot­tish stu­dents will be de­nied the op­por­tu­nity that stu­dents ev­ery­where else in the UK will have.”

MrMur­phyandMrMac­in­toshorgan­ised Scot­land’s first Auschwitz visit, which in­cluded a num­ber of pupils, in 2004. In the de­bate, the Min­is­ter for Schools and Skills Mau­reen Watt said: “Will the mem­ber [Mr Mac­in­tosh] ac­cept that a visit to Auschwitz and other con­cen­tra­tion camps by one or two pupils from a school is not the only way in which pupils can learn about the Holo­caust, and that through the cur­ricu­lum for ex­cel­lence and var­i­ous strands of the cur­ricu­lum, more pupils can learn about the Holo­caust’s con­se­quences?

“In their ac­tiv­i­ties weeks, many schools pro­vide trips to Ger­many that in­clude vis­its to con­cen­tra­tion camps, which also al­low more pupils to learn about the Holo­caust.”

Con­ser­va­tive Liz Smith said: “Many peo­ple think that ed­u­cat­ing young­sters about Auschwitz is ex­tremely im­por­tant.

“We have no prob­lem in sup­port­ing that prin­ci­ple, but we have a prob­lem with the Labour amend­ment be­cause we do not be­lieve that it is up to any gov­ern­ment to de­cide to ring-fence the money that is in­volved and we think that it is up to head teach­ers to make de­ci­sions about best ex­pe­ri­ences.

“How­ever, ed­u­cat­ing young­sters about Auschwitz can play an im­por­tant part in their ed­u­ca­tion.”

Karen Pol­lock, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tional Trust, said: “HET has been run­ning the Lessons from Auschwitz Project for sixth-form stu­dents and teach­ers for 10 years and we have in­cluded a great num­ber of Scot­tish stu­dents over the years.

“While the orig­i­nal Trea­sury fund­ing in­cluded all UK schools, the an­nounce­ment of re­newed fund­ing ear­lier this year only caters for English schools.

“We con­tinue our dis­cus­sions with the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment to en­sure that the HET is able to pro­vide par­tic­i­pa­tion in the project for school stu­dents and teach­ers across Scot­land.”

PHOTO: DAVID LEVENE

Auschwitz: Schools in Scot­land must de­cide for them­selves on trips

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