The Daily Telegraph

Teachers self-censor for fear of offending Muslim pupils

- By Charles Hymas Home Affairs editor

UP TO one in five teachers is self-censoring their lessons for fear of offending Muslim pupils in the wake of the Batley Grammar School controvers­y, a study has found.

Some 19 per cent of English and art teachers surveyed said they had self-censored comments and lessons to avoid causing religious offence following the row, in which a teacher was forced into hiding after he was targeted by campaigner­s and parents for showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed in class.

More than half of teachers – 55 per cent – said they would not use any images of the Prophet Mohammed in classrooms, even during the teaching of Islamic art or ethics. The figure rose to nearly two thirds – 64 per cent – among art teachers.

Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank which commission­ed the Yougov poll of 1,132 teachers, warned the findings suggested that self-censoring was creating a de facto blasphemy code in schools across the country.

In a foreword to the report, Nadhim Zahawi, the former education secretary, said it was a “national disgrace” that the teacher at the centre of the Batley Grammar School row was still in hiding two years later. He was suspended in March 2021 for showing pupils a drawing taken from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during religious studies classes, provoking complaints from parents and protests outside the school’s gates.

An independen­t external investigat­ion, launched by the school’s governing trustees, found the teacher had shown the image on more than one occasion, but had not intended to cause offence. He was cleared of causing deliberate offence and told he could have his job back.

However, as a result of the outcry, he was forced to flee his home in Batley with his partner and four children. Since then they have been living in a secret location outside the Yorkshire area.

The teacher, who was head of Religious Education at the school, has also been given a new identity.

Mr Zahawi said: “Our teachers – and their pupils – deserve better than this. We owe it to them to support them to provide a secure environmen­t where open, honest and free discussion is not only permitted, but actively encouraged.”

The poll found half of British teachers believe their physical safety would be put at risk if blasphemy-related protests led by activist and advocacy groups were held outside their schools.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom