Last week, the Department for Education published non-statutory guidance on schools’ legal duties on political impartiality, as set out in sections 406 and 407 of the Education Act 1996, part 2 of the schedule to the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 and many academies’ funding agreements.
These requirements have applied to schools for many years, and most schools are experienced in meeting them. However, the Government are aware that a number of recent issues have raised concerns and have made some teachers less confident to apply them in practice. Therefore, we have developed this guidance, working with the sector to ensure it is comprehensive and helpful.
Teaching about complicated and sensitive political issues can be challenging, but it is important that teachers can cover the full range of political issues they need to with confidence. The guidance is clear that it is not seeking to limit the range of political issues and viewpoints schools can and do teach about.
It is important that children are supported in their education to understand a range of perspectives and form their own views, without being unduly influenced by the personal views of those teaching.
This is what helps children and young people go on to become active citizens who can engage in our democratic society and who have an understanding and respect for legitimate differences of opinion.
This guidance will offer assurance to most schools that their legal duties in this area are being met without issue and help them continue their good work. For other schools the guidance should help them put in place the necessary processes to ensure adherence going forward.
Importantly, this guidance should also help all parties—including parents, carers, and others—to understand how schools should go about meeting their legal duties, allowing issues around impartiality to be taken seriously and resolved calmly through dialogue.