Teach pupils about modern antisemitism, warns Lord Mann

The government's independent adviser on antisemitism has said Holocaust education itself is 'not enough' to combat anti-Jewish hatred

The government's independent adviser on antisemitism has said Holocaust education itself is 'not enough' to combat anti-Jewish hatred

19 Dec 2022, 5:00

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Secondary schools should teach pupils about contemporary antisemitism, as well as the Holocaust, the government's independent adviser on anti-Jewish hatred has warned.

Secondary schools should teach pupils about contemporary antisemitism, as well as the Holocaust, the government’s independent adviser on anti-Jewish hatred has warned.

In a report aimed at tackling the growth of antisemitic incidents in the UK, Lord Mann commended the “great strides” made in promoting greater awareness of the genocide in schools.

But he added that antisemitism “can take many forms” and “it is not enough to teach about the Holocaust”.

Further education would help to “avoid young people going into higher education or working life without an understanding of anti-Jewish hatred”.

It comes as research from think tank the Henry Jackson Society shows a stark rise in antisemitic incidents in schools.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests it sent to 1,135 secondaries in England found incidents almost trebled in five years, from 60 in 2017 to 164 in 2022.

“If this scale of incidence among young people is not tackled, then we are storing up potentially serious problems for the future as well as for the present,” said Mann.

DfE should ensure academies cover contemporary antisemitism

The Holocaust is the only historic event which is compulsory within the national curriculum for history at key stage 3.

But only maintained schools have to follow the national curriculum.

In his recommendations, Lord Mann notes that for the government to address the issue of antisemitism education in schools “comprehensively”, it “should recognise that relevant teaching must take place in academy and independent schools”.

He added that “textbooks and printed resources on their own are unlikely to be sufficient to make a tangible difference”.

Instead, it is recommended that “a review” should be undertaken of relevant resources which are freely available to schools to ensure they are up to date and “easily navigable”.

In addition, the report recommends teacher training and continuous professional development should be reviewed and updated for this purpose.

“Above all, this Office would like to see the UK government work with the devolved nations in ensuring that all secondary schools across the UK should teach their pupils about contemporary antisemitism with appropriate resources,” the report states.

Holocaust education should be evaluated for its effectiveness

While its main recommendation for schools is that the teaching of antisemitism should not be restricted to the context of the Holocaust, the report emphasises the importance of this subject.

It suggests it is “absolutely vital” that as the number of living Holocaust survivors decreases, their testimonies are “heard in schools with the support of digital media”.

But Lord Mann warns of calls from external bodies including Salford City Council for an evaluation of the “nationwide effectiveness” of Holocaust education as well as its links to improving students’ understanding of antisemitism.

Suggestions put forward by the report include comparing the Holocaust knowledge of British people between 15 years ago and now.

Separately, it proposes the government could ensure Holocaust awareness becomes a compulsory part of curricula for all schools, academies and colleges.

School leaders need guidance on dealing with antisemitism

Other recommendations made by Lord Mann are that school leadership teams should be offered guidance from the government on how to deal with incidents of antisemitic hate on site.

This should include how to report incidents that did not happen at school but involved either the targeting of students or students as perpetrators.

A further suggestion is that twinning initiatives between schools should be “maintained and developed” to promote “community cohesion”.

Lord Mann highlights the work of the Bradford-based The Linking Network, which brings together two classes from demographically different schools in the same area over the course of a year.

A government spokesperson said: “Antisemitism, as with all forms of bullying and hatred, is abhorrent and has no place in our education system.

“The atrocities of the Holocaust are a compulsory part of national curriculum for history at key stage 3, and we support schools to construct a curriculum that enables the discussion of important issues such as antisemitism.”

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