Holocaust Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Children, Schools and Families – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 4th February 2008.

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Photo of Gordon Banks Gordon Banks PPS (Rt Hon James Purnell, Secretary of State), Department for Work and Pensions 2:30 pm, 4th February 2008

What assessment he has made of the contribution of the Holocaust Educational Trust's nationwide Lessons from Auschwitz project to teaching of the holocaust in the national curriculum.

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

More than 1,500 students have now had the opportunity to visit the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau as a result of the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust and to build on the learning that they have received through the national curriculum about the horrors of the holocaust and the lessons that we should learn from it. I can announce today that we will allocate £4.65 million for the next three years to ensure that that work can continue. I can also reassure my hon. Friend that a proper evaluation of the funding on those trips, as well as of their impact on young people's citizenship and their understanding of the world, will be built into the HET's work as part of that three-year funding.

Photo of Gordon Banks Gordon Banks PPS (Rt Hon James Purnell, Secretary of State), Department for Work and Pensions

I thank my right hon. Friend for that welcome answer. I have visited Auschwitz-Birkenau with school pupils from my constituency, and I stress to my right hon. Friend the importance of urging the devolved regions of the UK to put funding in place, too. Will he do that whenever it is appropriate? Will he also take this opportunity to dispel the rumour that the holocaust will be removed from the curriculum, for which my right hon. Friend is responsible?

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

On my hon. Friend's first point, I have not had the opportunity to go on one of those trips although my hon. Friend the Minister for Schools and Learners has. In my constituency, I ran a competition in which young people had to write an essay and the prize was to go on one of the trips. I have seen first hand, as has my hon. Friend Gordon Banks, the great impact that such trips can have, not only on those young people but on the whole school when they report back about the horrors that they saw. Our young people are learning lessons about tolerance and mutual respect for 21st century Britain from those visits.

I hope that all the constituent parts of the UK will use the funding available. The £4.65 million for England clearly has Barnett consequentials in this area for the devolved countries. I hope and expect that they will ensure that such visits are available for all young people across the four constituent parts of the UK.

As for my hon. Friend's final point, let me take this opportunity to dispel that internet myth. The teaching of the holocaust is compulsory in the national curriculum for all young people at key stage 3 and it will remain a compulsory part of teaching in the national curriculum under this party—and I am sure that it would remain so under all parties in this House. The holocaust is an issue that must be learned about, studied and reflected on by all our young people. It will stay in the national curriculum.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

I am pleased to be a council member of the Holocaust Educational Trust, and I commend the Government for their support for this important programme. The incident at the King Fahad academy shows that anti-Semitic messages of hate are still circulating in our schools. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to deal with that important issue?

Photo of Edward Balls Edward Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

The fact is that bullying and any other kind of exploitation of difference, whether that happens on racial, religious or gender grounds, is wrong. Schools have a duty to act to stamp it out. That includes that particular school. Like all schools, it should take action when necessary. We have an inspection regime that is designed to ensure that that guidance on schools' obligations is put into action. My hon. Friend the Minister for Schools and Learners has raised the issue with the inspectorate. We will consider the issue carefully when we see the results. Bullying of any kind, including anti-Semitic bullying, is wrong and should not be tolerated in a society such as ours.