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Extremist views sweeping across classrooms in England

In a new study by University College London (UCL) it addresses how teachers are not receiving the correct training or resources to teach students about extremism.

Students raising their hands in class - Credit: Phil Meech/UCL Institute of Education

The report 'Addressing Extremism Through the Classroom' was commissioned by the UK education charity, SINCE 9/11.

There were 96 teachers who participated in the study who expressed their thoughts regarding the increase of extremist views amongst students. According to the study, more than half of the teachers had heard students discussing far-right extremist beliefs within class, whereas around three-quarters had heard extremist views regarding women or Islamophobia.

Not only were extremist views being shared around the classroom, but also conspiracy theories were popular between pupils, such as 5G being linked with causing the pandemic, or Bill Gates controlling people by having microchips in vaccines.

In the report, it stated that when dealing with these issues nearly all participants felt confident when dealing with extremist views, such as racism, however the same could not be said for conspiracy theories, it said:

"The lowest levels of confidence (around a fifth of respondents feeling only ‘somewhat’ or ‘not at all’ confident) were found for conspiracy theories and far-right extremism".

In the report, it indicated that many teachers had difficulty dealing with these views due to not being sure on how to tackle the issue. Whether this was determining where the line is between freedom of speech and hate speech, as well as the worry of misjudging comments as humour.

Due to their being mixed-feelings on how to appropriately approach this area, the report has suggested 7 recommendations to be used in schools to handle extremist views. These are:

  1. Schools must continue to enact their antidiscrimination policies consistently.

  2. School leaders should promote opportunities for students to discuss and problematise extremist viewpoints.

  3. Students should have the opportunity to develop critical literacy skills across the curriculum.

  4. Fundamental British Values should be used as a starting point for discussions on democracy, diversity and dissent.

  5. All teachers should be provided with professional development on addressing controversial and sensitive issues.

  6. Educational charities and community organisations should work with stakeholders to develop high quality professional development and teaching resources to support teachers in addressing extremism.

  7. Schools should develop a community engagement strategy to address extremist issues.

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