On Saturday, 25 June, the Balfour Project hosted an online workshop to encourage more schools to teach this subject. Ninety attended, of whom 25 were practising teachers, 18 of them currently teaching the subject. Over a hundred have viewed the recording since. Three history teachers spoke of the challenges and rewards of teaching this topic at GCSE and A Level. The challenges are daunting because of both the complexity of the subject material and the sensitivities around teaching it.
Very favourable comments have been received from John Pritchard, Roger Spooner and John McHugo, amongst others : ‘thoughtful, articulate teachers’; ‘a great mix of experience and expertise’; ‘enlightening to hear of real-life experience of teaching on Israel/Palestine – all so enthusiastic’. All were impressed to hear of how engaged students became (more so than in any other GCSE option) once they had begun to get to grips with the complexity of the subject and that, when asked about parental reaction, the teachers reported parents saying how much they had learnt about Israel-Palestine from their offspring! None reported any parental criticism, maybe because GCSE and A level are officially recognised, authorised courses (instead of being a one-off lesson/outside speaker e.g. a representative of a particular organisation).
There was much interesting and persuasive discussion of the reasons for teaching the subject, resources used and of positive outcomes. (Evidence of the latter was heard/seen in the testimony of two ex-pupils, one now studying history, the other Arabic and Islamic Studies, at Oxford). It is to be hoped that teachers who attended the workshop are now more likely encourage colleagues in other schools to teach the subject or to take up the subject if they are not already doing so.
We are setting up a Facebook page which will enable teachers to share resources and exchange ideas for teaching Israel-Palestine.