Home Menu

Pupil support and safeguarding

Pupil wellbeing icon.jpg

 Advice on how to keep your pupils safe and promote a healthy learning environment. 

The Israel-Gaza conflict and the role of schools – England and Wales

We know this is an incredibly difficult time for many members of the community and that this will affect schools. The impact of the conflict on communities in Israel, Gaza and the wider region is being felt deeply across the world, including by many NAHT members and their pupils.

This web page gathers resources NAHT members might wish to consider and use in their schools at this difficult and sensitive time and focuses on practical support for all communities, pupils and staff. 

Duty of impartiality

NAHT members need to remember that, in the context of their professional lives, they have a legal duty to remain impartial. This means making sure of the following:

  • They are not promoting a partisan political view
  • They are showing pupils a balance of opposing views on political issues.

The guidance on impartiality in schools sets this legal duty out in full. If you’re a member based in Wales, please see the guidance for practitioners on remaining impartial.

When NAHT members come under pressure to break this impartiality duty, they might find it useful to flag this legal requirement because impartiality in relation to your professional role is not a choice but a requirement.   

Indeed, under the Teachers’ Standards, teachers must ensure their personal beliefs are not expressed in ways that exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law. Teachers can also be subject to a referral and possible sanction from the Teaching Regulation Agency if their actions or behaviours undermine fundamental British values. There can be no doubt that impartiality for members of the teaching profession, in connection with their role, is paramount. For professional standards that apply to education practitioners in Wales, see the Professional Standards and Code of Professional Conduct and Practice.

Personal views

Many members of NAHT will have personal, diverse political views on the conflict, which is entirely appropriate and to be expected. Freedom of speech is a right we all have, but we want to ensure you are fully informed of the potential consequences of expressing your views publically in particular ways given your professional role; this means that expressing your opinions as professionals outside and inside school needs to be done with care whatever the issue in question – this requirement extends to other professions in similar ways. Part two of the Teachers’ Standards guidance document flags this particular set of expectations, where it states that “teachers [must] uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school”. We expect this is something you are acutely aware of already, but we want to reiterate the particular complexities for professionals. For members based in Wales, the EWC Code of Practice, paragraph 1.1, provides that registrants "recognise their personal responsibility as a role model and public figure, to uphold public trust and confidence in the education professions, both in and out of the workplace".

Many employment contracts and staff codes of conduct in schools contain a clause that broadly states the employee should not bring the school/profession into disrepute, and this extends to conduct outside of the school (including on social media). Attending a peaceful protest, for example, would not fall into this definition. However, if the protest were to become violent and you became involved in this, or if you were to be photographed holding an objectively controversial sign, for example, this could be something an employer may choose to take issue with and could potentially lead to disciplinary actions – this would, of course, follow a fair process and representations could be made, but the outcome couldn’t be guaranteed. This means that while you can hold any belief, you need to take care in how it is expressed – you are held to a particularly high standard as a professional, influential and identifiable community member.  

In addition, there is also the possible sanction of a prohibition order from the Teaching Regulation Agency for misconduct in relation to “conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute”. It is worth noting that misconduct outside of the education setting will be considered relevant here only if the conduct displayed is of a serious nature and would likely have a negative impact on the public’s perception of the

individual as a teacher, therefore bringing the teaching profession into disrepute. The TRA will use part two of the Teachers’ Standards (for members based in Wales, the EWC could use paragraph 1.1 of the Code), which as noted above relates to personal and professional conduct, when assessing cases of serious misconduct.

We set out the above position to ensure you’re aware of the specific implications of conduct for members of the teaching profession to ensure any decisions you make are made with the relevant factual background given the positions NAHT members hold. 

Safety in the school community

The events in Israel and Gaza are, understandably, generating deeply passionate debates and discussions. As school leaders, you must ensure every community member feels safe and included in your setting. If you believe there are tensions in the school community, you may wish to remind all members of the need to uphold the school’s commitment to mutual respect, support and compassion for each other. 

Schools take great pride in being a community of communities, home to all nationalities and faiths, encompassing many different groups with wide-ranging personal experiences and views. The role of the school is to cultivate a safe environment for all its members. There is no place for racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, discrimination, incitement, bullying or harassment in school – and while this principle will always be a staple of the school environment, it would be pertinent to remind members of the community of this principle at such a febrile time, where there is any indication that these principles are under threat.  

It is also important that the school takes any reports of such behaviour seriously and acts on them swiftly. This means tackling racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and bullying if it arises by following your existing behaviour and anti-bullying policies. These policies will set out how to respond, investigate and report these incidents.

Solutions Not Sides has produced some useful advice on how to tackle anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim bullying around this issue.

A useful classroom resource in this area is Stand Up! Discrimination Today and Yesterday, which explores discrimination issues. The resource focuses on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. Teachers may use this resource to teach about discrimination, antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred historically and in Britain today. The resource contains different versions for different abilities. 

There are also other avenues of support:

  • If you’re not sure whether something overheard at school was antisemitism, you can get help with identifying it from the Community Security Trust. Community Security Trust provides a national emergency number (0800 032 3263), which you should use to report antisemitic attacks alongside calling 999
  • You can report anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia via Tell Mama, which provides a confidential support service. Its website provides several different ways to report anti-Muslim incidents
  • If you think any abusive or discriminatory views indicate that a pupil could be vulnerable to radicalisation, get support to assess the risk and make a referral to Prevent if you need to
  • For anyone in the UK who feels affected by the ongoing conflict, Victim Support is available online and on 0808 168 9111 (free and available 24/7).

Supporting pupils – vulnerable groups

As a school, you will be aware of children particularly affected by the conflict. All staff should be made aware of these pupils so that they can be alert to signs of distress. A safe space in your setting should be designated to allow these pupils (and others) to come and raise their concerns with an adult.

Supporting pupils – a whole-school ethos

While there are particularly vulnerable groups, nearly all pupils in school will have been impacted by the conflict. The news coverage can be distressing for young people. Helping them understand the context of this issue and that it is a topic that can be discussed openly and with tolerance for opposing views can help them navigate these difficult times.

There are reputable organisations that can support schools to teach about this sensitive topic in a balanced way, avoiding antisemitic, Islamophobic and/or other discriminatory narratives. These include guidance and teaching resources from Community Security Trust, Stand Up! and the Forum for Discussion of Israel and Palestine.   

Supporting pupils – online harms

In the modern world, the implications of the online world will also be relevant. Images are being shared that are extremely traumatic. There is also antisemitic and Islamophobic content being shared, and disinformation is always a risk. This is all too easily accessible to young people. 

In terms of helping your pupils navigate this online world, particularly concerning misinformation, some very useful resources are available. For key stages two to three, these are as follows:  

For key stages three to four, it is as follows:

Supporting staff – vulnerable groups and all staff

Identify any staff directly affected by the current situation and ensure they know the pastoral support available to them.

Ask the line managers in your setting to check in on the well-being of their teams regularly and to prioritise anyone they believe is particularly vulnerable. During times of crisis, it’s important to reach out to your team and let them know support is there should they need it. Ensure regular one-on-one catch-ups are maintained because these meetings provide staff with an opportunity to open up about any problems they might be facing.

Where a member of staff is struggling, consider referring them to Occupational Health to see what additional support can be provided at this time.

We strongly recommend reminding all staff that they should not tolerate any acts of discrimination, racism, antisemitism or Islamophobia, and clear information should be provided about who to speak to if they feel victims of this from other team members, parents or potentially, pupils.  

Supporting staff – preparing them for challenging questions from parents

Staff are often the first to speak to parents. They may be asked challenging questions about their beliefs or the school’s position. To ensure staff members don’t feel like they are navigating this alone, you might want to consider running a session about how to respond to queries, much of which will be centred around schools being politically neutral and somewhere for pupils and families with a wide range of personal views to come together to learn.  

Staff should also be aware of who to speak to if concerned about the way they have been approached to ensure this can be escalated quickly.  

What do you do if you have a particular issue in your setting?

If you are facing a particular issue in your setting, please contact NAHT’s advice line to discuss the matter; the easiest way to do this is to email specialistadvice@naht.org.uk providing your name and membership number (or date of birth) and set out the issue at hand. Someone in the team will then get in touch with you to discuss the situation in more detail. You can also call the advice line on 0300 30 30 333.

Useful resources

There are several other resources that schools might find helpful, and we set these out below:


First published 21 November 2023