Bristol Post

‘Extreme’ views in the classroom


EXTREME views like racism, homophobia and conspiracy theories are widespread in classrooms across England, a study suggests.

Schools lack the resources and training to teach pupils how to discuss or reject dangerous views, according to academics from the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education.

Their report, published days before the 20th anniversar­y of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, suggests schools’ efforts to build resilience to extremism in young people are “highly varied” due to limited space in the curriculum - and in some cases their approach to the issue is “tokenistic”.

Researcher­s, who spoke to 96 teachers in English schools as part of the study commission­ed by education charity Since 9/11, found that staff are concerned about the increase in pupils looking at hateful online content online.

The findings come after the boss of MI5 revealed that agents are investigat­ing teenagers as young as 13 linked to extreme rightwing terrorism.

In July, director-general Ken McCallum said the presence of teenagers is a “rising trend in MI5’s counter-terrorist case work” and is becoming more so in extreme rightwing investigat­ions.

The majority of teachers spoken to by the researcher­s said they have heard pupils express far-right extremist views in their classroom, as well as “extremist views about women” or Islamophob­ia.

Nearly nine in 10 teachers have heard conspiracy theories being discussed by students – including the theory that American business magnate Bill Gates “controls people via microchips in Covid vaccines”.

Teachers raised concerns about pupils’ exposure to extremist views online, often claiming that this has been “exacerbate­d by the pandemic and lockdowns” – and the report suggests that conspiracy theories and online disinforma­tion “is an emerging area that needs considerat­ion”.

The study also found that many teachers do not talk about issues related to extremism in the classroom out of fear that they will get it wrong, “especially on matters related to race”.

Researcher­s carried out in-depth interviews with English and Religious Education teachers and safeguardi­ng leads in schools, as well as a survey of teachers, and assessed a literature review of research examining how schools build resilience to extremism in students in England as part of the study.

Almost all the teachers surveyed had encountere­d “hateful extremism” in the form of racist views in the classroom, according to the report.

Dr Becky Taylor, from the UCL Centre for Teachers and Teaching Research, said: “This report shows that some schools fail to move beyond surface-level exploratio­ns of violence, extremism and radicalisa­tion; however, it is without doubt that schools can play an important role.

“Education policies must consider the fact that some schools may need more help than others to build on what they already have in place.”

 ??  ?? Ken McCallum
Ken McCallum

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