Batley Grammar School 'disappointed' by Government adviser's 'lack of leadership' claim over teacher protests

Batley Grammar School has refuted a Government adviser’s claims about how it handled protests against one of its teachers.
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In the report published today, Dame Sara Khan – an independent adviser to the Government for social cohesion and resilience – uses the incident in 2021 that sparked a national row as an example of what she says is victims of “freedom-restricting harassment suffering devastating impacts yet often not being treated as victims or offered the support they need”.

The material the teacher used in a religious education lesson led to protests outside the school gates and a free speech row.

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Ms Khan’s report says the teacher was forced into hiding and faced an online and offline campaign of intimidation and abuse.

Batley Grammar School.Batley Grammar School.
Batley Grammar School.

It also said threats and harassment included incitement to violence against both him and his family.

In her report, she criticised Batley Multi-Academy Trust as well as Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Police for how they handled the situation.

"In failing to understand the seriousness of the incident, he was let down by all the agencies involved,” says the report.

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"There was a considerable lack of leadership by the agencies. They should have issued clear messages that threats, harassment and abuse would not be tolerated under any circumstances.

"Nor was there any clear condemnation of those engaged in such behaviour who were creating an intimidatory and threatening climate.

"There was a disproportionate concern for not causing offence to the religious sensibilities of those who, unaware of the facts, chose to engage in intimidation and harassment.

"There also appeared to be a poor understanding of cohesion, where appeasing the protestors to secure the end of the protests – at the expense of the religious studies teacher – appeared to be the priority.

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"There is a clear need for institutions to defend and support teaching staff who experience freedom-restricting harassment.”

A spokesperson for Batley Multi Academy Trust said: “We are extremely proud of the school and of our community, and how both have moved forward together so positively from the very difficult period in 2021.

"Those events required us to support all our students, their families and our staff – including the teacher involved – for whom we provided counselling and wider support.

"We remain clear that we delivered on these responsibilities and that we followed due process.

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"This included immediately establishing an independent investigation, accepting its findings and acting on them.

“We are therefore disappointed by today’s report. We do not recognise much of what is in it, its description of the events, nor the characterisation of the school and community.

"We let the Government know ahead of publication that its draft contained a number of factual inaccuracies but note that these have not been corrected.

“We are also surprised that the authors of a report on social cohesion decided that the right thing to do was name our school and identify some individuals.

"However, our school and community is in a very positive place and we know that this report will not upset that.”