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A sensitive and difficult subject to tackle, but Guantánamo Bay has relevance for many, if not all, of our students. Amnesty’s Laura Jayatillake advises on raising this issue in the classroom

policies, to name but a few – are hot topics of political debate, with wide coverage in the media. With the right materials and preparation, teachers


can keep pupils well informed on such debates and engage them in critical reflection on some of the most important issues of our time. One such issue is Guantánamo Bay. Earlier this year, Barack Obama marked his first

year anniversary since coming to power in the US. At the same time, Guantánamo Bay was reaching the eighth anniversary since it first opened its doors. Over that period, the notorious US prison camp

has, contrary to international law, detained more than 750 people without trial, some of whom have been children. President Obama’s inauguration last year marked

an apparent change in approach and seemed to signal an important human rights victory. After seven years of Amnesty International’s campaigning for its closure, he announced that the US would finally shut it. But the reality has not been so positive. Guantánamo’s Military Commissions – highly flawed military-led trials which allow evidence obtained

Union address: NASUWT

Vote for hope, not hate

Chris Keates

says schools have to take a stand

against the BNP

ST GEORGE’S Day provided an opportunity for schools and society as a whole to celebrate the past, the present and to look forward to a brighter future together. As teachers, we want pupils to respect and value ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity. However, a recent poll revealed that as a country,

nine out of 10 of us are uncomfortable about flying the flag of St George or the Union Flag because these symbols are associated with the BNP, the National Front and other racist and fascist groups. Increasingly, a list of national events, institutions,

symbols and products are being hijacked by extremists and it is no surprise that the BNP deliberately delayed the launch of its General Election manifesto until April 23 – St George’s Day. The BNP’s extremist ideology is never far from

the surface. Its current leadership includes persons with convictions for racial hatred, Holocaust deniers and self-declared Nazis. Central to the BNP policy is the creation of an all-White Britain, no doubt, to be achieved by intimidation and violence. Surely any right-minded person would agree that schools should not give any platform to the BNP. However, in the wake of last autumn’s BBC

Question Time, many are now questioning whether a “legitimate” political party can be excluded from political hustings in schools or other public places. The publication by the Citizenship Foundation of guidance for schools – Dealing with the British

National Party and Other Radical Groups –

has added to the uncertainty. The thrust of the Citizenship Foundation’s guidance is that schools should invite representatives from the BNP to take part in mock hustings with pupils. The NASUWT disagrees strongly with the Citizenship Foundation’s view. Meeting a school’s statutory responsibilities

does not mean that representatives from all or any political party must be invited into a school, although schools must ensure that the range of political views is covered in the curriculum. The Education Act 1996 imposes legal duties on

local authorities, governing bodies and headteachers to forbid the promotion of partisan political views and requires that students should be offered a balanced presentation of opposing views when discussing controversial issues. These duties do not take precedence over other statutory duties, including under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 1976/2000 and the Education and Inspections Act 2006. There is strong evidence that the BNP’s

constitution and activities promote racism, intolerance and apartheid. So, what do schools need to think about when they are approached by representatives of the BNP or the National Front wanting to address real or mock hustings in schools? The activities of the BNP and similar groups are

often associated with serious public order offences. Governing bodies and local authorities have a duty to safeguard children and, therefore, should assess risks fully and seek the advice of the police before agreeing to allow the BNP to participate at hustings. However, where a governing body agrees to

allow the BNP to use the school for a meeting, it will need to show how such a decision would contribute to meeting the school’s other statutory duties and to raising educational standards. These schools should also have clear arrangements in place to manage public order, either through a police presence or by deploying suitably trained security staff. At the General Election, there is a choice to be

made by schools and by the electorate: a choice about the place of racism and fascism within schools and society. In the words of Billy Bragg, we should stop “bemoaning the lack of patriotism” and work together to “stop our national identity being hijacked by the far right”. I agree. In this General Election we can do that by voting for hope, not hate. Use your vote on May 6 to stop the BNP and to take a stand against racism and fascism.

• Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT. Visit

EACHING CONTROVERSIAL issues in school can represent a challenge for teachers, but that should not be an excuse to shun them. Many contemporary controversial issues – such as the war in Afghanistan, anti- terrorism measures and immigration

Tackling the big issues

under duress, and deny the right to an effective defence and an appeal – are apparently set to be restarted with little more than a cosmetic tweak. The date for the camp’s closure has already slipped. And nearly 200 men remain imprisoned without charge. At the end of 2009, we heard that some prisoners

may be relocated to prison in the US state of Illinois, but apparently some of these may be held indefinitely and again without charge – Guantánamo with a different postcode. So how do all these concerns translate into the

classroom? It is within the remit of citizenship, and related

subjects, to provide the opportunity for students to explore controversial contemporary issues, to enable the development of political literacy and also the development of skills in critical-thinking, advocacy and representation. There can be little doubt discussing issues around Guantánamo Bay firmly fit that criteria. By providing an opportunity to explore these issues,

which are of particular concern to some ethnic minority groups in the UK, schools also go some way to meeting responsibilities around community cohesion. A few years ago, Amnesty worked with teachers to

develop a film and lesson plan looking into the issues of Guantánamo. And those materials, sadly, are still as relevant now as they were in 2007. Taking into account the complexity and sensitivity

of the issues, it was decided to pitch the materials at students aged 14 and over. The film provides a good background to understanding the issues concerned and includes case studies of two UK residents, who at the time were detained in Guantánamo. The film and accompanying lesson plan allows

students to consider the issue of the right to a fair trial and the impact that the denial of this right has on individuals, families and communities. Students are also made aware that rights can compete and conflict and that difficult decisions have to be made to balance these. There are lots of relevant activities in the original

lesson plan, but this can be supplemented with Amnesty’s new update sheet that provides details on recent developments. After watching the film, we encourage teachers to update students on the cases featured. The two residents have since been released without charge and are campaigning for the rights of those still detained there. As a follow-up activity, teachers could set students

the task of finding out about the current debate over Obama’s proposed closure of Guantánamo. The update sheet provides links to the original January 2009 Executive Order to close the camp and the latest White House press releases. You could encourage students to research online US

and UK newspaper editorials for different perspectives on the issue, to help prepare for a discussion/debate that considers key questions such as: • How should the prisoners at Guantánamo be put on trial? Should they be given public trials in federal courts or closed trials in military courts?

• What should happen to those who are found guilty of terrorist offences? Is the death penalty an appropriate punishment?

Students could be offered the opportunity to develop

skills in “advocacy and representation” too, by letting Amnesty know what they think should happen to the residents currently in Guantánamo. A template for a creative action is included in the original lesson plan that accompanies the film. The film, original lesson plan and the new update

sheet can all be downloaded for free from Amnesty’s website. Amnesty International and others are calling for a

full and independent review into claims of the use of torture in Guantánamo and we have also produced a lesson on the use of torture against suspected terrorists which can be explored as a follow-up. This can also be downloaded. In the meantime, Amnesty will continue to campaign against some of the abusive practices in the US-led


SecEd • April 29 2010

“war on terror”. There have been successes, but there is much still to be done and Amnesty believes European countries must play their part. For the UK, that should mean ensuring that if

Shaker Aamer, a 41-year-old UK resident and father of four British children is not given a fair trial, that he is repatriated without delay to his home here in the UK. It should also mean that Ahmed Belbacha, who

is of Algerian origin and has links to the UK, should also be safely released to the UK in the absence of being charged and given a fair trial. The fear is that if Belbacha is sent back to Algeria he will be exposed to the serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. On January 11 this year, Johina Aamer, the 12-year-

old daughter of Shaker Aamer, handed in to Downing Street a personal letter to prime minister Gordon Brown asking him to step up efforts to secure the release of her father. Mr Aamer has been held at the camp since February 2002. He remains in detention to this day without having been charged of any crime. Her story is emotional and shrouded in controversy,

but it does not stop it being relevant in the British classroom. Amnesty’s 650 youth groups across the UK – most

of which are based in secondary schools – have been asked to send a letter to David Miliband, the foreign secretary, asking that if the pair are not to be charged and given a fair trial, that they are immediately returned to the UK.


• Laura Jayatillake is Amnesty International’s human rights education co-ordinator.

Further information

To download the Amnesty films mentioned, visit and select “Terrorism, Security and Human Rights” for the Guantánamo resources, and “Torture” for the torture resources. Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16
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