Emails wrongly suggest UK schools have banned teaching of the Holocaust

E-mails are circulating around the world, claiming the UK has banned the teaching of the Holocaust in schools.

The false suggestion is that the action has been taken by the government to avoid offending Muslim communities.

The source of the rumour may be a report that some history teachers were uncomfortable with sensitive subjects.

In fact the government has reaffirmed that in England, teaching children about the Holocaust is compulsory, and it is not banned elsewhere in the UK.

A number of people have contacted the BBC News website querying e-mails they have been sent.

One example is headed “In Memoriam”.

It says: “Recently this week, UK removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it ‘offended’ the Moslem population which claims it never occurred.

It adds: “This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.”

‘Emotive’

The report that may have given rise to the alarm was commissioned by England’s Department for Education and Skills from the Historical Association, which promotes the study and teaching of history.

It said: “Teachers and schools avoid emotive and controversial history for a variety of reasons, some of which are well-intentioned.

“Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes.

“In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship.”

‘Holocaust denial’

The report gave as an example a history department in “a northern city” which “recently avoided selecting the Holocaust as a topic for GCSE coursework for fear of confronting anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust denial among some Muslim pupils”.

The government said there was scope for schools to make their own decisions on what to teach within England’s national curriculum.

But a spokesman for England’s Department for Education and Skills added: “Teaching of the Holocaust is already compulsory in schools at Key Stage 3 [ages 11 to 14].

“It will remain so in the new KS3 curriculum from September 2008.”

He said Education Secretary Alan Johnson himself had stressed this.

There are separate national curriculums in Wales and in Northern Ireland, and 5-14 Guidelines in Scotland.

In those, Holocaust teaching is not compulsory but schools may teach it if they wish and this has not changed recently.

In Northern Ireland, for example, the Holocaust is given as an example of some of the things pupils “should” study.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday April 18, 2007.
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