Schools

Keegan ‘deeply concerned’ as children miss school to join pro-Palestine protests

Education secretary says 'missing school for activism is unacceptable' as groups stage school strikes

Education secretary says 'missing school for activism is unacceptable' as groups stage school strikes

17 Nov 2023, 17:40

More from this author

Gillian Keegan

Gillian Keegan has intervened after children attended pro-Palestine protests during the week, stating: “Missing school for activism is unacceptable.”

The education secretary said this afternoon that she is “deeply concerned” amid reports some youngsters have missed class to attend demonstrations in recent days.

She also voiced fears youngsters could be “exposed to antisemitic chants”. The Jewish News reported a 10-year-old was seen standing with parents chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’ in London, which is widely interpreted as calling for the destruction of Israel.

Left-wing group Stop the War Coalition also published guidance online on “how to organise a school strike”, along with a template absence letter to send to headteachers.

Concern as kids attend pro-Palestine demos in school day

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, Keegan said: “I’m deeply concerned that some children are attending political protests during the school day.

“Even more so if they’re taking part in, or being exposed to, antisemitic chants.

“This should be treated with the utmost seriousness – missing school for activism is unacceptable.”

Stop the War Coalition has helped to organise school strikes in Tower Hamlets, Bristol, Manchester, Harrow, Redbridge and Burton over the last two days.

Group issues advice to activist parents

Its advice told activists to “gather a group of dedicated parents/teenagers in your area and create a WhatsApp group”. It added that demonstrators should “pick a central location in your area to have a rally on Friday morning”.

A notice on Stop the War’s website said it has been “assured by those working in schools that whilst this would count as an unauthorised absence, a child can have up to four days in a row unauthorised”.

It stated that a fine would not be issued unless 10 days were missed “in a short amount of time”. Despite this it advised parent to “check your own school policy”.

Schools are expected to be politically neutral on such issues. Government published guidance last year which included advice on covering the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Shabbir Lakha, an officer for Stop the War, argued pupils “organising collectively to add their voices to the call for peace in Gaza is their democratic right and something to be applauded, not denigrated”.

“It is shameful that the education secretary would choose to attack young people in this way instead of celebrating their courage,” he added.

“There is zero evidence that there have been any antisemitic chants at any of the school strikes and for Gillian Keegan to claim this is a baseless lie.”

More from this theme

Schools

Schools face struggle to plug the gaps in ‘bankrupt’ Birmingham

School leaders warn councils making multi-million pound cuts to children's service is a 'sign that something is badly wrong'

Samantha Booth
Schools

More than 10,000 pupils ‘fall through the cracks’ – de Souza

Children's commissioner makes wide-ranging recommendations to make school system more 'inclusive'

Freddie Whittaker
Schools

New legal duty on school staff to report child sexual abuse

Home Office outlines new safeguarding requirement - but few details confirmed and no date for introduction yet

Lucas Cumiskey
Schools

Pupils share food with classmates amid cost of living crisis

Poll for the NEU finds 37% of children know someone who 'sometimes does not have enough food to eat...

Freddie Whittaker
Schools

Set Gatsby-style benchmarks for extracurricular activities, says EPI

Targets needed to address 'concerning inequalities in access', says think tank

Lucas Cumiskey
Schools

Government told ‘get a grip’ as new crumbly concrete closes schools

Urgent inspections launched after ceiling collapse at primary caused by crumbly concrete that isn't RAAC

Jack Dyson

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *