Education International
Education International

UK: Extremism debates at school put teachers on edge

published 9 April 2015 updated 9 April 2015

New rules in the UK requiring schools to report suspicions of extremist behaviour among students to officials have many teachers shying away from engaging in classroom debates on the subject.

In the wake of the Paris Charlie Hebdo attacks, and other extremist incidents in Europe, teachers in the UK have been encouraged to essentially spy on their students in order to identify any troubling behaviour.

According to the National Union of Teachers (NUT) educators are now avoiding any debate in the classroom on the events and extremism in general in order to prevent any issues. Teachers have also told the BBC that they are uncomfortable dealing with a subject they know little about.

At its national conference in Harrogate this week, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower discussed how the attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo led to many questions from students.

"After the attack, some students, particularly some Muslim students, said they felt if they expressed that they were offended by the cartoons, they would be labelled as extremist,” she said. "The idea that young people themselves are shutting this down means that they are locked out of the discussion."

Blower wants to see a framework implemented that provides teachers with the support they need to delve into what is a very sensitive topic.