Reflections on teaching Human Rights Education and the DfE guidance on ‘political impartiality in schools’.
In February 2022 the DfE released new non-statutory guidance on political impartiality in schools which made it clear that ‘teaching about political issues, the different views people have, and the ways pupils can engage in our democratic society is an essential part of a broad and balanced curriculum’. In the document the DfE also stated that this guidance does not include ‘any new statutory requirements and is based on legal duties on political impartiality that have been in place for many years’. Due to this many teachers and schools will not find anything new in the guidance and will not need to change anything about the way that they are using Amnesty International UK resources or teaching human rights in their contexts.
Using Amnesty Resources in Schools
Amnesty International UK is a politically neutral organisation that is committed to the principles of international human rights. We therefore ensure that this neutrality filters through our learning resources and teacher training materials meaning that teachers can be confident when using our resources in their lessons or attending our training that they are impartial.
Within the introduction to the guidance Nadhim Zahawi recognises that ‘nothing in this guidance limits schools’ freedom to teach about sensitive, challenging, and controversial political issues’. This means that Teachers are able to use Amnesty resources to teach about human rights issues and empower children and young people to gain knowledge, understanding and skills to claim their own human rights. The guidance also recognises that ‘charitable organisations, can help to enhance and supplement both the delivery of the curriculum and wider school activity.’ This coupled with our politically neutral approach mean that teachers can feel confident in using our resources with their students.
Any educator who would like training to gain a greater understanding of how to explore human rights with their students may also like to join our Online Amnesty Teacher Training Programme. This course aims to give you the knowledge, resources, and confidence to teach about human rights in a politically neutral way.
Activism in schools
When it comes to activism nothing in the guidance stops students from engaging with human rights issues and setting up Amnesty Youth groups. Instead, it explicitly states that ‘schools can help pupils to set up their own networks or clubs to focus on political issues’ suggesting that teachers can support students who want to set up clubs to explore political and human rights issues. Teachers are also able to ‘play an active role in supporting pupils to understand the political issues they are interested in, as well as ways they can make a difference and be more actively involved in political action’. When it comes to attending protests, the guidance recognises that ‘pupils and teachers can freely attend legal protests outside school’. But does state that teachers ‘must not advocate pupils join these protests’ meaning that teachers must empower young people to learn about human rights and the power of protests but the choice to attend protests must be their own. Enabling students to make their own decisions on how they engage with human rights activism, including whether to attend protests, is a key part of good quality human rights education and we know that our teachers develop rights respecting spaces for their students to engage with human rights issues that are relevant to them in the way that they choose to engage.
If you are looking for additional resources to support your students with Human rights activism you may want to explore our resources on Human Rights and Solidarity for 7-13 year olds or Human Rights and Activism for 14-19 year olds. Additionally, if you are an FE college and would like help in setting up an Amnesty Youth Group, take a look at our Amnesty Youth Activism Coaches programme.
You can also contact our Human Rights Education team for additional support with teaching around human rights within your context by emailing our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.