In February 2022, the Department for Education published new guidance on political impartiality in schools which explains the existing legal requirements. The guidance is designed to help school leaders, teachers, and staff, handle and teach children about complex issues sensitively and appropriately.
What are the legal duties for schools?
The guidance does not include any new statutory requirements but will support those working with and in schools to understand the relevant legal duties. In summary, these legal duties mean schools:
- must prohibit the promotion of partisan political views, which are not limited to just political parties
- should take steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure the balanced presentation of opposing views on political issues when they are brought to the attention of pupils
Schools must also actively promote the fundamental British values of:
- the rule of law
- individual liberty
- mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
The guidance reiterates that schools with a religious character, such as Christian schools, can teach according to the tenets of their faith. These principles are not considered to be covered by the statutory requirements on political impartiality.
What does this mean for schools?
Schools should teach children about political issues and the different opinions people hold to achieve a balanced and broad curriculum. It is an important way schools support children to become active citizens with their own views whilst understanding and respecting differences of opinion. Given the changing nature of political views and the way they are taught, schools may wish to consider reviewing how they approach political impartiality even when issues have not yet arisen.
The guidance provides helpful scenarios to build an understanding of what constitutes a political issue, but this is ultimately for schools to determine what is and is not a “political issue”. There is also guidance on using external agencies and what to consider when working with them.
Where agencies are frequently chosen to speak to children, the school should consider whether the organisations represent several different political views. To achieve this the school could create a clear school policy that sets out how visiting speakers are chosen and how political balance is achieved to meet legal requirements.
How Moore Barlow can help
If your school would like further information and support on how to manage political impartiality, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Schools & Charities team.