The Daily Telegraph

Teachers unwilling to tackle extremism in schools for fear of being branded racist

- By Camilla Turner education editor

TEACHERS are failing to address extremism in the classroom for fear of being labelled racist, a study has found.

A report by University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education found that many teachers shy away from tackling pupils’ extreme views for fear that they will “get it wrong”.

The report, commission­ed by counter-extremism charity Since 9/11, said that schools in England lacked the resources and training to teach pupils how to reject and discuss dangerous extremist views and ideologies.

“All teachers recognised that schools can make a difference in discouragi­ng young people’s attraction to extremist views,” the report said. “Indeed, the surveyed teachers had a high degree of confidence in addressing issues related to extremism. However, our case study data indicate that this was not widespread. Some teachers expressed concerns about getting it ‘wrong’ especially on matters related to race.”

Kamal Hanif, a trustee of Since 9/11, said a key finding was the lack of confidence teachers have in discussing issues like extremism.

“Teachers are shying away from the most difficult topics, I think it leads to that fear of getting it wrong, teachers might think, ‘I’m not prepared with the skills for this’,” he said.

UCL researcher­s questioned 96 teachers in schools across England and found that views like racism, homophobia and conspiracy theories were widespread. They also found that teaching about extremism in schools was “highly variable”, and in some cases “superficia­l” and “tokenistic”.

Sir Steve Lancashire, the chief executive of Reach2 multi-academy trust, which runs 55 primary schools, said teachers needed to have clear guidance about how to manage a discussion on extremism.

He said being labelled a “racist” was a “legitimate concern” for teachers, adding: “If your own views are not in alignment with the children’s parents, it does leave you feeling quite vulnerable.”

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

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