Partygate making it harder to teach ‘honesty and integrity’ – union boss

NAHT's Paul Whiteman criticises 'absolute failure of political leadership'

NAHT's Paul Whiteman criticises 'absolute failure of political leadership'

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Mistrust over the partygate scandal making it harder to instill “integrity and honesty” in pupils, a union boss will warn today.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, will also describe claims that schools are trying to indoctrinate children with left-wing ideas as “utter tosh”.

Whiteman will address his union’s annual conference in Telford tomorrow in the wake of the news that prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak were among those fined for attending parties in Downing Street and Whitehall during a national lockdown.

He will say that school leadership is “hard” at the moment because of Covid pressures, funding, accountability, hours and pay, but also because of an “absolute failure of political leadership”.

Whitman will say he is “not that angry” about the rule-breaking parties themselves, given the “offence of having a glass of wine and a slice of cake is minor”.

Young people ‘see partygate playing out’

“But for the prime minister of the country to mislead us about it, repeatedly, is unforgivable, and clearly in breach of the standards of our democratic institutions.

“It matters because young people can see this playing out before their very eyes. And schools’ efforts to make sure young people understand the basics of self-regulation, good behaviour, decency, honesty, and integrity become so much more difficult against that backdrop.”

Whiteman will also take aim at the government’s policy on refugees and immigration.

Ministers have faced strong criticism over the slow pace and strict criteria for its visa schemes for those fleeing Ukraine, and more recently for its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

‘Utter tosh’ to claim schools indoctrinate pupils

The union leader will say that young people “see the complete lack of compassion, the complete lack of humanity demonstrated by our government in the way we deal with these issues”, and are “inquisitive” about the “difficult debates” about immigration.

But schools are “not allowed to teach young people about this in a balanced way”.

His comments come after the government published non-statutory guidance on political impartiality for schools, which gives tips on how to teach about issues like climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement and the British empire.

It also comes after a primary school in Nottinghamshire was criticised, including by education secretary Nadhim Zahawi, after pupils wrote letters criticising Johnson over partygate, leading to claims of indoctrination.

“The rhetoric from government wants to portray you as trendy lefties that want to indoctrinate young people,” Whiteman will say. “That is utter tosh.

“Teachers and school leaders will teach young people about how to interrogate these issues well and draw their own conclusions. They have been doing this well for years, and they will do it in a balanced way; I trust them to do that, government should trust them to do that.”

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