Friday, April 20, 2007

Chancellor Gordon Brown scotches rumors on Holocaust Education in the UK

From today's Jewish Chronicle:

Shoah class here to stay: Chancellor
By Dana Gloger and Bernard Josephs

Chancellor Gordon Brown has stepped in to scotch rumours, circulating on the internet, that Holocaust education could be removed from Britain's national curriculum for fear of offending some Islamic pupils.

Addressing a Labour Friends of Israel luncheon on Tuesday, he elicited applause by announcing that the government and the philanthropic Pears Foundation would together give the Holocaust Educational Trust an annual grant of £500,000 over the next three years to support teaching of the subject. This was in addition to the annual government grant of £1.5 million which is financing HET's Lessons from Auschwitz programme, in which two pupils from every school in the country are taken on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Any suggestion that the Holocaust was being dropped from the curriculum should be dismissed, said Mr Brown. "We will ensure that it goes on being taught... Not to do so would be tragic."

The emails, which declare that the government is to remove the subject, appear to be a response to press coverage of a Department of Education and Skills report earlier this month which quotes a teacher from a northern city as saying that some teachers shied away from subjects such as the Holocaust for fear of offending Muslim students.

It warned: "Recently, this week, all of the United Kingdom... removed the Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it...With Iran among others claiming the Holocaust to be a myth, it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets."

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the HET, expressed delight at the Chancellor's announcement, which she said was an example of the government's commitment to Holocaust education. "This will enable HET to administer a broad programme of teacher training," she said.

A spokesman for the genocide-prevention organisation the Aegis Trust, based at the Holocaust Centre, in Nottinghamshire, said that far from Holocaust education decreasing, the centre is in fact running at capacity and is unable to accept all the school bookings it receives.

The centre's chief executive, Dr James Smith, said: "We are now appealing for funds to build a new auditorium that would double visitor capacity - and enable us substantially to increase our teacher training provision."

The Holocaust became part of the national curriculum in 1991 and is a compulsory subject for all Key Stage Three (usually aged 13 to 14) students in England and Wales.