Curriculum politics

Political impartiality

Credit: ColdWarSteve

This old chestnut has been cranked up again. Is it a sop to right-wing backbenchers? I have written about it before: Indoctrination (2020), Propaganda in Schools (2018). Also see my post on corporate social responsibility and inappropriate marketing called… “Making better protestors” (2011).

I’m so tired of it, I will leave it to Sam Freedman’s @SamFR twitter thread to explain…

All you need to know about this story “the guidance does not change existing legal requirements”. It’s noise to keep MPs and the Telegraph happy. Makes no real world difference.
To be clear I mean “makes no real world difference to how schools need to behave in practice”. Obviously rhetoric itself can make a difference in terms of how people choose to behave.
Also, fwiw, I’ve seen absolutely no evidence whatsoever that teachers do any of the things the guidance supposedly asks them not to do. Either anecodatally or in research.
The real irony of the “guidance” now I’ve had a look is that a fair bit of is about asking schools not to take homophobic positions and to teacher climate change properly. (Already law in both cases but hardly anti-woke….).
The only bit that seems really problematic from my liberal view is that the suggestion the history should be taught in a “balanced” way. I think it should be taught in a true way. Facts shouldn’t need to be balanced with opinions.
Picking out Black Lives Matters for specific comment is undoutedly intentional but what is said about is true – if a campaign group using that name takes a political position it shouldn’t be taught (again this is existing law + no evidence schools don’t follow it).
I wonder if the DfE SPADs briefed the Telegraph and their backbenchers about the climate change bit….


One of the clearest examples of how this guidance misfires is explained by Penny Rabiger @Penny_Ten:

The guidance states that “When teaching pupils about racism, teachers should be clear that racism has no place in our society and help pupils to understand facts about this and the law.”

However, when helping them to understand the facts about this, schools may not teach children anything about racism except that it is unacceptable. They are not allowed to explain how racism came to be, what purpose it serves, and how it has been used to further interests.


It really loosk like a solution in search of a problem. It’s inexperienced civil servant thoughts that just serves teacher-bashing which really isn’t but looks like it is trying to be! Just look at the newspapers heavy take on this very slight guidance.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said that teachers helped young people “understand more about themselves and their views of the world”.

He added: “I don’t want there to be any barriers – real or perceived – to teachers’ vital work in this space, which is why I am reinforcing that no subject is off-limits in the classroom, as long as it is treated in an age-appropriate way, with sensitivity and respect, and without promoting contested theories as fact.”

Don’t buy The Sun

It’s so tiring and tiresome that this gets turned into headline-making nonsense.

I liked this from Sam Bright: @WritesBright

“History is literally the process of evaluating and reinterpreting the past. Good history (like good news reporting) is fair, but it’s not balanced or impartial.
Some people in the past were real dickheads, and history involves finding evidence for that and stating it bluntly.”


I couldn’t find a source for this…
Where do you stand?
You can’t stand everywhere and you can’t stand nowhere.
You have to stand somewhere.

The guidance says schools should be “helping pupils understand how they can influence and participate in decision-making.” So, I will continue to take “We are making better protestors” as a compliment.

“Political impartiality guidance for schools – what you need to know”
Posted by: Media Officer, Posted on: 17 February 2022

“Schools in England given guidance to avoid biased teaching”
By Hannah Richardson, BBC News education reporter

“War on ‘woke’ teachers as they’re told to be ‘balanced’ over British Empire and not to back Black Lives Matter”
By Will Hazell Education Correspondent February 17, 2022 12:01 am (Updated 12:20 pm)


What does the DfE Impartiality Guidance mean for students, schools and society?

July 29, 2022

John McLaverty (Oxfam GB) and Safia Mizon Thioune (Protection Approaches) set out why the DfE impartiality guidance provides a narrow interpretation of the 1996 Education Act and engenders confusion, rather than clarity, over the responsibility of educators to foster democratic and active citizenship.

Source: Our Shared World

By Angus Willson

Angus Willson is editor of this site and author of this blogpost.

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