Teachers to be questioned on Shoah lessons

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

The launch of the first national survey into how the Holocaust is taught in English secondary schools will help to stop internet stories that Britain has stopped teaching the subject, according to a leading official in the field.

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock, who helped set up the research project, said: "Specialists in the field of Holocaust education all want to understand better how training programmes and resources are used in the classroom and impact on both teachers and young people.

"This is an excellent initiative with which we have been proud to be involved from the outset with the Institute of Education, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Pears Foundation. I hope this will finally put to rest the totally false rumours in circulation which suggest that Holocaust education is being removed from the national curriculum."

The new project, being run by the Institute of Education in London, was unveiled last week to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

It had its origins in a speech by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in which he pledged funding of £1.5 million for Holocaust education. The money has come jointly from the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Pears Foundation.

Researchers hope to find answers to such questions as: why do schools choose to teach the Holocaust? How much time do they devote to it? Are there reasons why a teacher may hesitate to teach the subject? Does the background of the students affect this decision in any way?

Dr Stuart Foster, director of the project, explained that, while the Holocaust was a compulsory part of the national curriculum, little was known about teachers' attitudes and perceptions about it. "This survey will shed light on the challenges that teachers face when teaching this complex and demanding subject," he said.

It will culminate in a national programme of courses to help teachers address the concerns and issues they encounter when taking lessons on the Holocaust.

Questionnaires will be sent to teachers in all secondary schools in England between November and the end of this term, followed early next year by interviews and case studies.

Ruth-Anne Lenga, a visiting fellow at the IoE and a specialist in Holocaust education, said: "As survivors of the Holocaust are decreasing, there is greater responsibility on teachers to develop powerful strategies that will ensure the universal warnings of this atrocity are firmly understood in ways that encourage our children to conceive of and work for a more humane future."


Last updated: 2:33pm, November 13 2008