Commenting on the government’s launch of new guidance on political impartiality in the classroom, Cllr Ben Miskell who is also a teacher and Ambassador for the Association for Citizenship Teaching believes that it’s rare for political impartiality not to be seen in classrooms. He says that South Yorkshire’s schools must be safe places to discuss controversial issues and an antidote to internet conspiracy theorists.

Cllr Ben Miskell said:

We have to ensure that young people can take part in our democracy and that means ensuring that the entitlement to politics and democracy education is a reality for every child in South Yorkshire. Our schools need to be places for safe places for the discussion of controversial issues and an antedate to toxic internet conspiracy theories.

Well over a decade ago I trained as a Citizenship teacher, but sadly there aren’t enough of us in schools in our region and that needs to be a focus for government.

Ben teaching young people
Ben teaching young people

I’m proud to have taught some amazing young people who have gone on to join political parties from right across the spectrum or got involved in having their voice heard through other democratic ways. It’s been a joy to see them flourish. I want them to go on and be the next generation of councillors or MPs of whatever political party they choose.

Over the years, students that I have taught have carried out a range of successful active citizenship campaigns with a political focus, chosen by them. Some interesting examples have been young people lobbying high street clothing retailers to improve working conditions for workers in factories overseas or investigating whether the voting age should be reduced to 16. 

Sometimes coverage of impartiality in schools can be very basic and fails to recognise that whilst impartiality is very important, the balance in our children’s classrooms will often take place across a unit of work to allow students to develop a deep understanding of a topic. 

Educators like me have to constantly ask ourselves what are the contrasting views, what are the points of difference and why do people support different groups? In essence my aim is to enable students to leave schools with the ability to interpret the vast range of political material they receive in various formats for themselves, in order to make informed choices. 

Teachers I come into contact with across the country in my role as an Ambassador for the Association for Citizenship Teaching are all doing the same thing. It is rare for impartiality not to be seen and where it is this is normally down to lack of training.

Coverage of this story and Cllr Ben Miskell’s statement on BBC news website.

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