Although most schools will feel that the new non-statutory guidance does not say anything new, it provides advice on the existing legal requirements and duties placed on school leaders, teachers and other staff relating to political impartiality and the impact these have on teaching and extra-curricular activities.
The guidance (and separate note What you need to know about political impartiality in schools) summarises the legal duties as requiring schools:
The legal duties not to promote partisan political views in teaching and offer a balanced presentation of opposing views forms just a part (albeit an important one) of the requirement to provide a broad curriculum and meet the standard relating to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of pupils; by actively promoting the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
The guidance also includes content on teaching approaches, combining guidance and example scenarios to illustrate how to teach about political issues (including sensitive issues), ensure balance in teaching and avoid expressing personal opinions. There is also guidance on choosing external agencies to deliver curriculum or extra-curricular activities eg those connected to the RSE and PSHE curriculum.
The guidance states that schools should actively promote staff awareness of the statutory requirements and relevant information on political impartiality, including the guidance. It suggests training should be rolled out on this topic, including induction training and training for leaders/those preparing for a leadership role.
We would recommend that schools consider updating the Code of Conduct to make reference to this and so that staff understand the principles and where they can access further guidance.
The guidance makes it clear that it is for school leaders and employers to judge whether it is necessary or helpful to have a school-wide policy on teachers expressing personal opinions on political issues in the classroom, or whether this is best left to teachers’ own judgement on a case-by-case basis.