New survey finds nearly 20% of London children have been antisemitic when discussing current war

Half of teachers also reported they felt uncomfortable discussing the Israel-Palestinian conflict


Pro-Palestine protesters hold up Socialist Worker placards at a London march (Photo: Getty Images)

New polling has found that nearly a fifth of London schoolchildren are displaying antisemitic behaviour when discussing Israel's war in Gaza. 

The report from racism watchdog Hope not Hate, claims that most teachers do not feel equipped to talk about Israel or the war in Gaza with their pupils, even though 52 per cent said they had heard students discuss the war. A further 58 per cent of teachers said their school is not willing to appropriately address issues related to the Middle East conflict. 

In London, nearly one in five teachers (17 per cent) said students were displaying antisemitic behaviour when discussing the conflict.

The polling found 21 per cent of teachers said pupils were angry with what they were viewing about Israel-Palestine and 18 per cent have witnessed pupils arguing about the conflict.

 Seven per cent of teachers said students were displaying behaviour which could be considered Islamophobic when discussing the conflict.

While eight per cent of school teachers said that students were joining pro-Palestine demonstrations, just 1 per cent said that students were joining demonstrations in solidarity with Israel.

The campaign group, HOPE not Hate, conducted the polling of 4,646 teachers on Teacher Tap, a daily survey app for teachers, on January 29. 

The group said the polling demonstrated that “The Israel-Palestine conflict is a polarising issue that teachers are struggling to deal with in schools.”

The teachers who said they felt most confident about discussing the conflict were those in senior leadership positions and headteachers. Teachers with the least confidence were more likely to be classroom teachers who spent the most time with pupils. Teachers at the beginning of their careers were found to be the least confident discussing the war.

HOPE not hate has called on the government to do more to assist schools and teachers to have conversations about the war in Gaza with pupils. The group said that the polling indicates conversations about the war cannot be avoided in the classroom, so is asking the government to step in.

Misbah Malik, Senior Policy Officer at HOPE not hate said: “Schools are important places to foster cohesion and fight hate, but they need the right support, training and resources to be able to do so. Government guidance must go further to support teachers and achieve this aim.”

In October, the Department of Education issued guidance to schools on how to respond to the Israel-Hamas conflict in the classroom. However, the polling indicated that many teachers feel discouraged from conversations about the war.

A DfE spokesperson said: “It is important that children are taught about global events and schools offer this opportunity in a safe and controlled environment.

“We know navigating these issues can be challenging for teachers and this is why the Education Secretary wrote to schools to provide advice on how to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict in the classroom – we have also published resources and lesson plans on our Educate Against Hate website to complement existing guidance on impartiality.”

Oxfam has also released guidance and resources for schools, including "eight ways teachers may help young people to learn, think and act about the conflict in Israel and Palestine.”

In November, it emerged that fewer than 2 per cent of GCSE history students in England studied a module on the Middle East in 2020 and fewer than 27 schools in England currently teach the course. The Observer reported that some schools blocked attempts to introduce the subject due to “heat” around the topic and worries about “bad publicity”.

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