Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi says some schools 'are keen to shut down free speech'

Mr Zahawi said young people aren't snowflakes and we owe it to them to teach them how to think

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Nadhim Zahawi has spoken about the issue of political impartiality in schools, which he said was “a complaint I’m hearing more and more”.

The Education Secretary said “none of us want to stop children learning about politics, quite the opposite” but he told the Conservative Spring Conference that some were “keen to either shut down free speech, or to only present one side of an opinion”.

“We all know that political issues are complicated and often sensitive,” he said.

“And this is especially the case in schools where children start questioning the world and wondering why things are the way they are.

File photo dated 07/10/21 of Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi who has said: "Ensuring everyone is given the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter their age or life stage, is a vital part of our mission to level up this country".
File photo dated 07/10/21 of Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi who has said: "Ensuring everyone is given the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter their age or life stage, is a vital part of our mission to level up this country".

"This can include questions about our history, how to tackle climate change, all the way through to the contested views on race and identity issues.”

Minister for Education Nadhim Zahawi leaving Downing Street, London, after attending a Cabinet meeting ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons. Picture date: Wednesday October 27, 2021.
Minister for Education Nadhim Zahawi leaving Downing Street, London, after attending a Cabinet meeting ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons. Picture date: Wednesday October 27, 2021.

Mr Zahawi said those issues could be “challenging to teach” but he said it was “important, very important, that where concerns about impartiality arise, they are treated seriously and handled with the necessary sensitivity.

"That is why I have issued updated guidance to help schools understand how they should go about meeting their legal duties, allowing issues to be resolved through constructive dialogue, and agreement”.

He added: “After all, as Ronald Reagan once said, how do you tell a communist?

"Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin.

"And how do you tell an anti-communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”

Mr Zahawi said young people “aren’t snowflakes”, and added: “We now owe it to these young minds to provide a world-class education that teaches them how to think, not what to think.”