Schools should not teach “contested views about white privilege” as fact, the government has warned, with ministers planning new guidance for schools to help “meet their duties”.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has submitted the government’s response to a report by the Parliamentary education committee The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it.
The report sparked controversy and accusations that MPs were trying to start a culture war when it recommended that schools consider whether promoting “politically controversial terminology” such as “white privilege” was in line with their duties under the Equality Act.
MPs also recommended that the Department for Education “take steps to ensure that young people are not inadvertently being inducted into political movements”, and that it should issue “clear guidance for schools” on how to deliver teaching on these complex issues in a “balanced, impartial and age-appropriate way”.
The report was criticised at the time, including by Labour committee member Kim Johnson. She disowned the report and told the Guardian she was “not happy about the whole section on white privilege”.
“The inquiry cherrypicked data. I think they were trying to create a bit of a culture war,” she said.
In its response to the report, the government said schools played a “crucial role in helping pupils understand the world around them and their place within it, and in teaching about respect for other people and for difference”.
But the response warned that schools “must not promote partisan political views and should take steps to ensure the balanced treatment of political issues”.
Schools “should not teach contested theories and opinions as fact”, and this includes “contested views about ‘white privilege’”.
“Political issues relating to racial and social justice can be taught about in a balanced and factual manner, just as pupils are often taught about a range of different views on other topics.”
The government said these were “important principles to uphold”, and revealed it had “already begun working with the sector to develop guidance which will help schools understand and meet their duties in this area”.
The guidance will “support schools to teach about complex political issues, in line with their legal duties on political impartiality, covering factors including age-appropriateness and the use of external agencies”.