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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 14:05 GMT
Teachers 'must be impartial'
Afghan refugees
Teachers are advised to keep neutral on Afghanistan
Teachers should be impartial in how they discuss the conflict in Afghanistan, says a union leader.

And to promote a political belief in the classroom is "highly unprofessional", says Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

The warnings against bias were in response to reports that a head teacher in Exeter had put forward arguments against the conduct of the war.

But the head teacher, Pete Stevenson, had rejected suggestions of bias, saying that the school had simply looked at the war from a number of different perspectives, in the way that it would for any major event.

Nigel de Gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy says that teachers should not abuse their position

Mr de Gruchy's warning also questioned whether teachers advocating a political cause could be breaching their terms of employment.

"It is highly unprofessional, and indeed probably contractually dangerous, for teachers to abuse their position and deliberately promote a particular point of view.

"This applies no matter how strongly any individual might feel about any particular cause," said Mr de Gruchy.

Muslim pupils

And in particular the union leader warned that teachers in schools where there were ethnic minority pupils should be sensitive to the risk of inciting conflict if partisan views were promoted.

In the wake of the September 11th attacks on the United States, the union had called on teachers to make sure that Muslim pupils should not be made to feel vulnerable or scapegoated.

"If every teacher indulged themselves and used the classroom to promote whatever cause they personally happen to be committed to, one could just imagine the confusion and division this could produce," said Mr de Gruchy.

The union has advised teachers to emphasise to pupils that no religious group should be blamed for the attacks.

And it has suggested that teachers asked about the conflict should adopt a "neutral and non-political" approach.

See also:

02 Nov 01 | England
Pupils shown both sides of war
08 Oct 01 | Education
Today's assembly is about war
18 Sep 01 | Education
What did we tell the children?
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