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Extremism: Teachers are educators, not police officers

24th Sep 2021
Extremism: Teachers are educators, not police officers

(Photo credit: Pixabay commons)

State schools have, along with other public services, long bore the brunt of Government cuts. They have recently suffered their worst decline in decades, with those in the most deprived areas often the worst affected by recent austerity measures.

Yet, teachers have faced increasing political interference from ministers while regularly being blamed for many social ills. Along with other responsibilities, schools have also been mandated with an additional legal duty to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” but with little support.

A new study on Addressing Extremism through the Classroom (p4) has found many shortcomings since teachers were tasked with tackling extremism. It comes amid warnings from police of a rise in the number of children radicalised by neo-Nazi and other extremist groups. Yet, unsurprisingly, teachers were reported as “not being given the time, training or resources.”

Teaching about extremism also proved to be ‘highly variable’, and sometimes ‘superficial’ and ‘tokenistic’. It was ‘stymied by overcrowded curricula, lack of resources, a desire to perform policy for Ofsted and a mandate to detect and report [the] vulnerability to radicalisation rather than stamp out its root causes’.

Many teachers were also reluctant to talk about extreme views in the classroom out of fear that they would “get it wrong, especially on matters related to race”.

One particular issue raised both in literature and in the study was “scepticism about the teaching of Fundamental British Values (FBVs)” to address extremism. Teachers in the study indicated that they used these values as a pedagogical resource to discuss issues associated with democracy and being British, although it was recommended that FBVs be used only as a “starting point for discussions on democracy, diversity and dissent.”

Multiple demands are being made on schools and teachers tackling packed timetables and severe funding constraints. It is a critical issue, and the Government cannot expect its demands to be carried out without resources, as seems, unfortunately, to be often the case. Professional training is also a must, especially in addressing controversial and sensitive issues. Education is central to overcome myths and stereotypes, but only if done appropriately.

Teachers can make a substantial difference in swaying young people’s from extremist views, but there is concern about getting it ‘wrong’, especially on matters related to race and religion.

Not needed is politically motivated interference by ministers. Schools must be allowed to hold open debates in classes so that students come to understand different perspectives on topical issues and develop respect and tolerance for conflicting views.

Teachers, who are already overburdened, should not have to contend with the conflict of interest inherent in acting both as educators and law enforcers.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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