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Political Neutrality in Schools

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:59 am on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil 10:59 am, 10th March 2020

The hon. Lady makes a good point. I do not argue that activism should not be allowed; I just want people to be able to understand, on the basis of facts and statistics, why they might want to be activists.

It is hard to gauge the size of this problem and to compare it with previous times. The evidence tends to be anecdotal. I suspect there have always been teachers with strong views who have not held back in sharing them, although perhaps in the past those views were sublimated in interests in particular texts or topics. However, I can say that I have received complaints from constituents, and I doubt I am alone. I also know that those cases were less about the examination of political ideologies and focused more on personalities—an approach sadly reminiscent of Stormzy’s.

I sought the debate because I wanted to reflect the concerns of my constituents and to express my own views about the importance of our children’s mental health. Surely, learning that we can disagree with one other without using the language of hatred is one of the most important lessons there is. I accept that there is fault across the political spectrum, but we have only to look at Momentum’s contribution to Twitter to see how corrosive it can be when abuse becomes a normalised part of political discourse.

I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister is able to offer some reassurance that the Department is active on this issue. Parents should have a route to voice concerns in a way that does not affect their children, and teachers should have guidance that helps them to be confident in judging where the line is between passionate and coercive.

I have seen rather colourful comments on social media by teachers, who should be mindful that their pupils may be on the same platforms. Whether online or at school, teachers must inspire and equip our children to make up their own minds not just on politics but across a whole range of issues. I end by paying tribute to the overwhelming majority, who do just that.