An investigation into the use of a blasphemous image of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by teachers at Batley Grammar School has concluded that lessons on blasphemy could have been effectively addressed without using the image.
However, the teacher who showed the image has had his suspension lifted and he will now be allowed to return to school.
The investigation commissioned by Batley Multi Academy Trust was launched after complaints that an incendiary image of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was used as a teaching aid in a Year 9 Religious Studies lesson on March 22.
The investigation said: “The independent investigation has concluded and the Trust has accepted that the teaching staff who developed and delivered the lesson genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit, and that it was not used with the intention of causing offence.
“The image was included to initiate a discussion about the meaning of ‘blasphemy’. Nevertheless, the Trust recognises that using the image did cause deep offence to a number of students, parents and members of our school community. The Trust deeply regrets the distress this has caused. The Trust also considers that the topics covered by the lesson could have been effectively addressed in other ways and without using the image.”
According to the investigation, the image was used on more than one previous occasion and was not included in the formal scheme overview.
“All Trust teachers must exercise appropriate professional judgement when selecting materials to supplement schemes of work for use in lessons,” the investigation said. “Clearly, where subject content is sensitive or controversial, great care must be taken to ensure that lessons are planned and delivered in a way that promotes respect and tolerance between people of different faiths, beliefs and values. The Trust considers that its lesson planning processes could have facilitated a more holistic approach to the selection of teaching aids…
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“In the light of the above, and in respect of the views of our school community the Trust is clear that it is not necessary for staff to use the material in question to deliver the learning outcomes on the subject of blasphemy; or any such images of the type used on 22 March for use in any Trust RS lessons, or any other lessons.”
The Trust added that it would now:
- Ensure that the selection of teaching aids is subject to more rigorous monitoring.
- Give additional guidance and training to teaching staff to help them to take full account of the needs of different student cohorts and their contexts when planning the delivery of lessons.
The investigation concluded: “The Trust is committed to providing high quality education to all students and has an excellent track record of inclusivity and of building strong relationships with the wider community. These relationships have been built over many years and, as a local family of schools, are paramount to the Trust’s vision and values. The Trust will not avoid addressing challenging subject matter in its classrooms but it is committed to ensuring that offence is not caused and that this is always done with care and sensitivity, enabling students to build empathy, mutual respect and understanding.”
Reacting to the investigation, local activist and academic Dr Abdul Basit Sheikh said the conclusion will satisfy nobody.
He told 5Pillars: “The Trust having concluded its investigation has published a report that leaves everyone connected with Batley Grammar School in limbo. The Trust having stated that images such as those shown by the teacher at the school in March 2020 should not be used again in the future. However, the Trust also reaffirms its commitment to British values stating that no topic is taboo and off-limits as far as educational settings are concerned at any school connected to the Trust.
“This begs the question that despite the Trust carrying out its investigation there remains the distinct possibility that there could be a repeat of the same incident at the school or another school in the not too distant future. The Trust has unfortunately failed to allay the future concerns of a cross section of opinion in the community going forward.”