Can I face disciplinary action for expressing my political views?
You might be cautious about expressing your political views in school and unsure about what you can and can’t say to pupils. We’ve seen an increase of cases where disciplinary action has been taken because teachers have expressed and promoted their own political views to pupils.
In this article, we summarise guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) and look at how you can discuss political events with balance without jeopardising your career.
Teachers have to act appropriately
The DfE has published updated information warning teachers against expressing their own political opinions in front of pupils. It explains that all staff have a responsibility to ensure that they act appropriately in terms of the views they express (in particular political views) at all times, and should not use school resources for party political purposes.
The DfE has explained that the update “simply brings this guidance in line with the law, which makes clear that headteachers and local authorities must not promote partisan political views in school. Headteachers have long had a legal responsibility to provide a balanced presentation of opposing views when teaching political or controversial subjects.”
The 1996 Education Act states that governors, councils and heads must “forbid the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.” However, it does not prevent school staff from expressing political views outside the classroom. You might also want to be careful about if, and how, you express your political views on social media, especially if your accounts are accessible to staff, pupils or parents. Edapt has published another article which looks at how teachers can stay safe on social media.
Presenting neutral political opinions
We have all been put in the situation where a pupil has put us on the spot and asked which political party you have voted for, if you believe in Brexit, or what do you think of Donald Trump? Pupils are curious and if anything it shows that your pupils are engaged with current political discourse.
You should try and be politically neutral where possible and present the different sides to any political class debate. From a parent’s perspective you don’t want to be labeled as the teacher with a certain political persuasion where it could be seen you are trying to influence pupils to a certain way of thinking.
What should I do if I have been invited to a disciplinary hearing?
If you are an Edapt subscriber, please contact us as soon as possible if you have been invited to an investigatory or disciplinary meeting so we are able to provide support.
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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.