UK

Ofsted chief inspector warns against ‘divisive’ political campaigns in schools

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has warned against teachers running “divisive” political campaigns within schools, amid concern over pupils attending pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the school day.

Ms Spielman told a media briefing on the day of Ofsted’s annual report that it was “very important” to ensure that political activity from children attending School Strike for Palestine rallies “doesn’t wash back into schools”, adding that such rallies were not “school-organised”.

Asked about children striking from school to call for a ceasefire in Gaza earlier this month, Ms Spielman said: “My message to parents is that your children shouldn’t be missing school.

“It really is important that they get the benefit of the whole experience.”

Ms Spielman said the inspectorate had seen anecdotal examples of teachers enlisting children “to write campaigning letters” and “walk down the high street to support people who are demonstrating”.

She added that running “contentious” political campaigns within schools had the potential to make children “feel isolated, unhappy, uncomfortable or get to a place where there are things that children feel they can’t talk about in school”.

Gillian Keegan
Gillian Keegan Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has raised concerns (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms Spielman, who on Thursday published her final report as chief inspector of Ofsted, said: “There is a delicate balance between encouraging children to be active citizens, encouraging them to be informed to take an interest and prepare for active citizenship in adult life – and bringing in things that can divisive within the schools, for example, running political campaigns within schools to enlist people to things that are clearly contentious.”

Ofsted’s chief inspector said the “principle of political impartiality” was vital to make sure “every child can feel properly comfortable in every school”, adding that it was a “tough balance to strike”.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said earlier this month that she was “deeply concerned” over the sight of children taking part in pro-Palestinian demonstrations during the school day.

School Strike for Palestine rallies have taken place across the UK, with images on social media showing events in cities including London, Bristol and Glasgow.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Ms Keegan expressed concern about such protests and warned they should be treated with the “utmost seriousness”.

Ms Keegan said: “I’m deeply concerned that some children are attending political protests during the school day – even more so if they’re taking part in, or being exposed to, antisemitic chants.

“This should be treated with the utmost seriousness – missing school for activism is unacceptable.”