The Free Speech Union has submitted a dossier to the Department for Education (DfE) documenting instances of ideological indoctrination in 15 English schools. Teachers have a legal duty to avoid promoting partisan political views in classrooms, but we’ve found evidence that this is routinely being ignored – with the encouragement of the National Education Union, Britain’s largest teaching union, which recently published a report saying schools are “shaped by colonialism” and there is an “urgent” need to “decolonise” every subject and every stage of the school curriculum in the light of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, including educating children about “white privilege” and “anti-racism”.
In our dossier, we detailed how: a secondary school in Peckham “persistently politicised teaching” with staff circulating Black Lives Matter petitions and students encouraged to create work featuring the slogan “All Cops Are Bastards”; an academy in Wargrave distributed a “kid-friendly guide to social justice terms” that defined police as “workers chosen by, protecting and serving people in power”; and a community college told pupils that disagreeing with people of colour was “covert racism”.
Our submission to the DfE was reported by the Daily Mail and the article is essential reading. The 1996 Education Act imposes a duty to “prevent political indoctrination and secure the balanced treatment of political issues”, and schools are manifestly failing to uphold this crucial responsibility. In some cases, we suspect, they’re not even aware of this legal duty – either that, or the staff believe that depicting our society as “systemically racist” and white people as steeped in the ideology of white supremacy isn’t politically controversial but is an incontestable statement of fact. If you have an example of schools teaching about controversial issues in a politically unbalanced way please contact us.
Rather than force-feeding pupils a diet of woke political views and stifling dissent, schools should be places which value and promote freedom of expression as a fundamental British value. We wrote to the Education Secretary following the events at Batley Grammar School in March calling for the addition of “freedom of speech” to the list of British values which English schools are obliged to promote, and the DfE has replied, claiming that freedom of speech is implicit in the term “British values” and so there’s no reason to make any explicit reference to it in the guidance. We disagree and this is something we will continue to campaign for.
Success: Lisa Keogh cleared after two months’ investigation for saying women have vaginas
Our member Lisa Keogh, the 29-year-old mother-of-two and law finalist at Abertay University, has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The University investigated the ridiculous complaints against her and put her through an extremely stressful, two-month-long investigation process as she tried to complete her degree and sit her final exams. She recently spoke to GB News about the experience. Weekly newsletter readers will have seen the extensive press coverage of this shocking case. Lisa thanked the FSU, citing in particular Fraser Hudghton, our Case Management Director, “who has been on hand at all hours to answer my calls and navigate me through this”.
Stonewall’s Censorship Champions
We’ve just published our latest report, “Stonewall’s Censorship Champions“. Written by Carrie Clark and Shelley Charlesworth, it describes how the LGBT charity has imposed its views on a range of controversial issues involving trans and non-binary people on various public institutions via its Diversity Champions programme, whereby government departments, local authorities, universities, museums, galleries, theatre companies, etc., adopt its policies to secure their “Champion” status. Not only do these policies firmly side with trans people in the conflict between trans rights and sex-based women’s rights, but they often invoke the Equality Act 2010 and claim it proscribes any criticism of what’s come to be known as gender ideology. (For a detailed account of how this works in practice, see this review of how Essex University came to no-platform two gender-critical feminists written by the equalities barrister Akua Reindorf.) Carrie and Shelley note that Stonewall has begun to haemorrhage support in recent months as its overbearing, dogmatic approach has been exposed to public scrutiny and suggest that the way to restore its reputation is to promote an open, grown-up debate about LGBT issues characterised by intellectual tolerance and mutual respect.
“Sensitivity Readers” will destroy what remains of independent student journalism
We’ve written to Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) to protest about the requirement that student journalists should submit their work to be vetted by official “sensitivity readers”. This follows a motion by the Students’ Union complaining about “problematic articles” which are “implicitly racist or sexist”. The move will compromise the editorial independence of the Oxford Student, which is owned by OUSU. I wrote a piece for the Spectator in which I said that operating within these guidelines when I was the editor of a satirical student magazine at Oxford would have been both unwelcome and done nothing to prepare me for a career as a journalist. Two of our Free Speech Champions wrote in UnHerd, pointing out that student “sensitivity readers” aren’t confined to Oxford, but are already a fixture in many other universities, including Edinburgh.
The “decolonisation” movement sweeping British universities is a threat to academic freedom
A push to “decolonise” courses at the University of Exeter will jeopardise academic freedom and leave the University’s College of Social Sciences and International Studies open to a legal challenge. That was our warning to the Russell Group university in a letter sent last month, which it has now replied to. The subject of our complaint was the College’s requirement that academics who propose new or revised courses must include content that moves away from a “white, Eurocentric curriculum”. These faddish proposals threaten the freedom of academics to teach their subjects and pursue their research as they see fit, and do nothing to ensure that students receive a rigorous and high-quality education. Moreover, the new policy is a breach of the “Agreement on Academic Freedom” that Exeter signed with its local branch of the University and College Union. That agreement states that academics should “not be forced to instruct against their own best knowledge and conscience” and sets out various safeguards for academic freedom. The agreement was signed in 2009, a lifetime ago in the culture war, and we’ve drawn the Vice-Chancellor’s attention to this important, and apparently forgotten, commitment.
FSU’s support for the school chaplain who was referred to Prevent
We’ve lodged a complaint with the Charity Commission about Trent College, the independent CofE school in Notthingham which referred Dr Bernard Randall, the school chaplain, to Prevent for telling pupils they could question LGBT policies and make their up own minds about gay marriage and whether trans women are women. In addition to referring him to the counter-extremism programme, the school also pushed him out, something Dr Randall is now challenging in the Employment Tribunal. The letter can be read here. If you’re on Twitter, you can watch this clip of Dr Andrew Doyle, a member of the FSU’s Advisory Council, interviewing Dr Randall on GB News.
Dr Neil Thin will face no sanction from Edinburgh University
Another victory for free speech was won in June with the clearance of Dr Neil Thin, an academic at Edinburgh University who was placed under investigation after student activists complained about his “problematic” views. His sin, in their eyes, was to object to the renaming of the David Hume Tower, as well as a university conference on “Whiteness” that included sessions which white people weren’t allowed to speak at. He is a member of the Free Speech Union and we supported him throughout the lengthy investigation during which he was suspended from teaching.
New Zealand FSU wins first victory
Our sister group in New Zealand has won a major victory in New Zealand’s High Court, achieving an injunction reversing the no-platforming of a feminist group, “Speak Up For Women” (SUFW), by the Palmerston North City Council and its libraries.
SUFW is controversial because it rejects “gender theory”, prompting activists to brand it a “hate group” and refer to its members as “TERFs” (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). The event was part of a nationwide tour to discuss a bill that’s currently before the New Zealand Parliament which would allow people to change their gender simply by making a declaration.
The Court said that the Council was wrong to ban the group. The Judge went on to say: “There is sufficient evidence before me at this stage to be clear that SUFW cannot rationally be described as a ‘hate group’ in the sense that term can be relevant in making decisions about the extent to which a particular group should be allowed to exercise its rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.”
Particularly satisfying was the Judge’s application of the New Zealand Court of Appeal decision issued earlier this year where the NZ Free Speech Union’s predecessor organisation – the Free Speech Coalition – was partially successful in an appeal over a similar council “no-platforming” case involving two controversial Canadian speakers. The Union is currently seeking leave to appeal to New Zealand’s Supreme Court for judicial guidance on balancing security concerns with free speech and to stop the no-platforming of controversial speakers on spurious health and safety grounds.
Free speech: how can we combat campus cancel culture?
The FSU is sponsoring an event at the Battle of Ideas mini-festival on the new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill and resisting cancel culture on university campuses. Professor Eric Kaufmann of our Advisory Council will be on the panel. Further details can be found here.
We are delighted to be partnering with the Battle of Ideas for their live, one-day event, Open for Debate, on Saturday 31st July at Church House, Westminster, London. Sessions include Free speech: how can we combat campus cancel culture?, Beyond Culture Wars: how to argue better in an age of conformity and What does the Sewell Report mean for education? The excellent line-up of speakers across the entire day includes Eric Kaufmann, Dennis Hayes, Tony Sewell, Calvin Robinson, Claire Fox and Arif Ahmed. The Free Speech Champions will also be there manning a stall, so do come along and say hello.
If you have children currently studying for A-levels or at university, this would be a great event to bring them along to.
Polish community newspaper saved
Thanks to all of you who donated to the appeal for Polish-community newspaper Nowy Czas. It faced ruin after a vexatious libel case and a string of judicial errors. But the claim against it has been dropped. We’re proud to have played a part in defending freedom of the press.
Watch: The Online Safety Bill’s threat to free speech
The Government says the Online Safety Bill will make the UK “the safest place in the world to go online”. We say it will restrict online free speech to a degree almost unprecedented in any democracy and empower Ofcom, which it proposes to make the new social media regulator, to censor controversial views.
Our two experts discussing the Bill were the FSU’s Director of Research Dr Radomir Tylecote and Matthew Lesh, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute. Rado and Matthew are co-authors of the FSU’s Briefing “You’re On Mute: The Online Safety Bill and what the Government should do instead”, a critical assessment of the Government’s Online Safety Bill. The evening was hosted by Claire Fox, Director of the Academy of Ideas and a member of the FSU’s Advisory Council. You can watch a recording of the discussion on our YouTube channel here.
Work for the FSU: we’re recruiting a new Membership Director
We’re looking to hire a part-time Membership Director. Do you have an excellent track record of managing member relationships and growing a membership organisation? Have you got strong experience in member communications and administration? Are you able to develop and deliver not-for-profit, digitally driven strategies? If so, and if you care passionately about free speech, please apply. The job will initially be for two days a week, but will grow as more members join. The salary is £45,000 – £50,000 per annum, pro rated. You can find out more here and you can apply by sending a CV and introductory letter to [email protected].
We hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. We’re proud of the work we do, and we think it’s important. Your support is also vital. Please help us to carry on this fight by joining the Free Speech Union, and by sharing this newsletter. We currently have about 8,300 members, but we want to get to 10,000 by the end of the year. We also hope to open affiliate groups across the Anglosphere – and you can see the website of our New Zealand affiliate here. The United States will be next.