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01 October 2020

Coalition of anti-racist educators bring challenge against new government guidance banning teaching materials

3 mins

The Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators (CARE) and Black Educators Alliance (BEA) have warned the Secretary of State for Education, in a pre-action letter dated 1 October 2020, that they intend to initiate legal proceedings against him should he not withdraw the Department of Education guidance on the curriculum for personal, social, health and economic (‘PHSE’) education, published on 24 September 2020.

The guidance has been heavily criticised by teachers, parents, MPs, students and human rights organisations for its implications on freedom of belief, speech and expression in the classroom.

CARE and BEA are Black led networks of educators, parents and students who share a primary aim of promoting anti-racist education in schools and challenging racism at every level.  The groups firmly believe that the guidance in its current form will prevent teachers from using material from groups including Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and the charity, INQUEST or another campaigning organisation that seeks to draw attention to the disproportionate impact of state violence on Black communities.

CARE and BEA have launched a crowdjustice page to proceed with a judicial review if the Secretary of State for Education refuses to withdraw the guidance.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the Labour MP for Streatham, said: “I support this legal challenge. Freedom of speech and an educated population are two fundamental pillars of democracy. We cannot move forward as a society without respecting them both.

CARE have commented: “This guidance will have a chilling effect in the classrooms. Our schools are filled with inquisitive young people and we should be doing everything necessary to ensure they are given all the tools and information to have rich discussions on topics such as inequality. This guidance prevents that by restricting access to materials and no-platforming organisations that don’t carry favour with the government. This is a thinly veiled attack on a wide range of movements fighting for urgently-needed social justice causes, and has implications far beyond its apparently narrow scope. As educators committed to anti-racist work, we are gravely concerned about the way this guidance appears to censor materials produced by anti-racist organisations and activists.”

Rachel Harger of Bindmans representing CARE and BEA said: The guidance, which was published without consultation or warning, is a clear statement of the Secretary of State’s own political preferences and the ban on the use of teaching materials related to left wing or political groups is clearly unlawful, serious and far reaching. The guidance constitutes an assault on the common law right to freedom of speech, freedom of religious belief and has a disproportionate impact on protected groups such as the Black and trans community. The Department of Education should immediately withdraw the guidance and engage in a proper consultation if further guidance is to be issued under the Education Act.

The campaign websites can be accessed here: Black Educators Alliance (BEA) and No More Exclusions

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