England’s school watchdog official denounced a new brand of ‘militant’ activism in school communities which she said led to confrontations inside and outside school gates and had a potentially limiting effect on education.
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has raised concerns not only about recent parental and community protests, which have forced children to cross picket lines to get to the school, but also to an increase in student activism on issues such as racism, climate change and recent developments in the Middle East.
In some cases, she said, children and teachers were subjected to abuse and even violence because they were of the wrong religion, race or ethnicity, and she said students should not being forced to support the campaigns of their peers for fear of being ostracized if they don’t.
Regarding teachers, Spielman said they should not be watched by “self-proclaimed moral guardians” who refuse to tolerate alternative views, or harassed on social media to apologize for what they have said or said. change the way they teach.
“What concerns me is not the activism that widens the debate and brings about long-term change, but the kind of militant activism that demands immediate adherence to a position,” she said on Thursday. during an education festival. “We see these conflicting approaches both outside and inside schools. This affects staff, parents and children and can have a limiting effect on education.
Spielman has avoided referring to cases in detail, but of late there have been protests outside of schools against LGBT and relationship education as well as at Batley High School in West Yorkshire, after a picture of the Prophet Muhammad was shown in class.
The recent conflict in the Middle East has sparked a wave of pro-Palestinian protests among school students and controversy over the response of staff, with students accused of anti-Semitism and a principal describing the Palestinian flag as a “call to arms “.
Additionally, students demonstrated against climate change and, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, students in England protested their experiences of racism, while students from Pimlico Academy in London staged a walkout to complain discriminatory policies.
“It’s a tough problem for schools,” Spielman said. “So much effort is put into encouraging young people to understand and think about their democratic rights, which of course includes the right to demonstrate and campaign for what they believe in. But education must come first. And no child should ever feel targeted or marginalized because intolerance has replaced reasoned debate.
She told industry leaders attending a virtual education festival: “It can’t be fair for children to have to cross so many picket lines outside of their school because religious beliefs exist. One group – protected by law – is uncomfortable with teaching about sexuality to another group – also protected by law. It is not fair that the program can be framed by pressure groups.
“And the militant defense of Orthodoxies is not limited to adult protests, or protected features. We are also seeing more student activism in schools, on many fronts. Part of it concerns racism or anti-racism; some relate to climate change; some concern issues far enough away for most British children, such as the busy and complicated politics of the Middle East.
“But in some cases, children and teachers experience abuse or even violence just because they are who they are: because they don’t have the right religion, the wrong race or the wrong ethnicity. It is totally unacceptable. “