The government has issued updated guidance that warns teachers in England’s schools not to express their political views in the classroom.
They must not also use school resources for party political purposes.
The advice has been handed out by the Department for Education (DfE) in an update given to schools.
There is a new section that insists teachers should act appropriately when expressing views, and when using resources, for a political campaign.
The advice states that all teachers are responsible for ensuring they act appropriately in terms of the views they express, in particular political views, their behaviour and use of school resources.
‘Government is trying to silence teachers’
Among those criticising the moves is Labour, which says the ‘government is trying to silence teachers’ from speaking about school spending cuts.
However, it is illegal for school staff to promote a political view when teaching a subject.
This has not deterred headteachers and education unions from contacting parents to highlight the cost pressures that school budgets are facing.
The DfE says the guidance has been updated to help provide teachers with clarity.
Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said: “The government is trying to ban teachers whistleblowing as school cuts affect children’s education.”
‘Teachers and headteachers are prohibited from expressing political views’
The National Education Union’s joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, told one national newspaper: “Teachers and headteachers are prohibited already from expressing political views with pupils.
“This is different entirely from alerting the wider community and parents about the underfunding of schools. If subjects are cut because school staff are reduced the parents must be informed about why.”
He said that parents and headteachers currently share a concern over the education of young people and children, and this should be a concern for every politician despite their political persuasion.
The Association of School and College Leaders’ general secretary, Geoff Barton, said: “We cannot see a reason why teachers and school leaders should not express their concern over matters directly affecting the education of children, including severe funding pressures.
“It’s not party political to do so, and it is a statement of their experience.”
Guidance is regularly updated
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education says that the guidance is regularly updated to help ensure it’s not only accurate but for schools to deal with staffing issues correctly.
She added: “Headteachers have a legal responsibility for providing a balanced presentation of views when teaching controversial or political subjects.
“The update brings this guidance in-line with the law and makes clear that local authorities and headteachers must not promote non-partisan political views.”