Children are being encouraged to imagine they are suicide bombers plotting the July 7 attacks as part of the Government’s strategy to combat violent extremism.
By Duncan Gardham
The exercise is part of a teaching pack aimed at secondary school pupils that has been adopted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It requires children to prepare a presentation on the July 7 atrocity – in which 52 innocent people died – “from the perspective of the bombers”.
They are asked to summarise the reasons why they thought the bombers wanted to carry out their attacks and even suggest some more.
It has been produced by Calderdale council in Halifax, West Yorks, which borders the area where two of the July 7 bombers lived, and has been adopted by schools and even police forces across the country.
The pack, which is called “Things do Change”, is intended as a way of addressing issues such as terrorism and suicide bombing through the national curriculum.
But it was criticised yesterday by victims, educational experts and politicians, who feared it could be “dangerous” to ask children to adopt the mindset of a terrorist.
Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road bomb on July 7, said: “I can’t see why anyone would think it is a valuable exercise to encourage children to put themselves in the position of men who treated people in such an inhuman way.
“To encourage children to see the world in that way is a dangerous thing. Surely there must be a better way of achieving their objective?”
Mavis Hyman, whose daughter, Myriam, was killed in the July 7 bombings, said: “I don’t think that anyone can put themselves in the minds of these people. I have tried to see it from their point of view. I have read books and watched films and it has not succeeded. ”
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, said the pack risked “encouraging the sort of belief we’re trying to work against”.
“They should be looking at it from the victims’ view,” he said. “Whoever thought this up has no understanding of the communities where we are fighting against extremist beliefs.”
Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons terrorism sub-committee, said: “How useful is it to pretend to be a suicide bomber if it defeats the object of the lesson? Imagine the uproar if we suggested that children play-acted the role of Hitler.”
The pack was made available through a Government-sponsored website called www.teachernet.gov.uk A section entitled “Community Cohesion” requires pupils to “prepare a brief presentation on the 7/7 bombings from the perspective of the bombers”.
After watching a DVD from the pack, which costs £200, the class is supposed to be split into four, with one group asked to adopt the perspective of the bombers.
Sail Suleman, the author of the pack, told the Times Educational Supplement : “We’re looking at why people become extreme. Why do young people go out and do what the bombers did? Was it pressure from individuals they were hanging out with? Hopefully, we’ll encourage pupils to stay away from those individuals.”
Other groups are asked to imagine the bombings from the perspectives of Muslims in Britain, non-Muslim Asians and British people in general.
The teaching pack is already being used in Islamic schools and mosques in West Yorkshire, as well as in local authority-run schools.
A number of other authorities, including Birmingham, Sandwell in the West Midlands and Lancashire, have begun using it in schools and several police forces, including the Metropolitan, West Yorkshire, Thames Valley and Greater Manchester, have adopted it.
Tahir Alam, the education spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This isn’t any different from any educational tool people use all the time. Pupils imagine they’re living in the 12th century. The important lesson is that these things are never morally justifiable.”
The education department withdrew the pack from the teachernet website yesterday.
A spokesman said: “While the resource in no way looks to justify or excuse the terrible events of 7/7, and is designed to educate against.”
Ministers in U-turn over guidance that urges children to think like suicide bomber
Ministers were forced into an embarrassing climbdown over guidance telling children to think about the July 7 terror bombings as they apologised for offending the victims of the attacks.
By Tom Whitehead
The Government withdrew the controversial guidance for schools after a national outcry that it encouraged children to imagine they were suicide bombers.
Schools still have the final say on whether to use it but the Department for Children, Schools and Families has recommended headteachers not to do so.
But the council which drew up the document continued to defend it.
A DCSF spokesman said: “While the resource in no way looks to justify or excuse the terrible events of 7/7, and is designed to educate against violent extremism, we appreciate that it may not be appropriate for use in schools.
“It’s important young people discuss these difficult and controversial issues in a controlled environment but, in this case, ministers apologise for any offence caused.
“Ministers have now withdrawn the link to the material from the Teachernet website as they believe it to be misguided and inappropriate. We apologise for any offence caused.”
The pack, which is called ‘Things do Change’, is intended as a way of addressing issues such as terrorism and suicide bombing through the national curriculum.
Children are asked to summarise the reasons why they thought the 7/7 bombers wanted to carry out their attacks and even suggest some more.
It was immediately criticised by victims of the atrocity, including Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road bomb, who said: “I can’t see why anyone would think it is a valuable exercise to encourage children to put themselves in the position of men who treated people in such an inhuman way.”
The document was produced by Calderdale council in Halifax, West Yorks, which borders the area where two of the July 7 bombers lived, and was adopted by schools and even police forces across the country.
The council yesterday stood by it and Mark Thompson, head of housing and community support, said: “The ‘Things Do Change’ resource pack is made up of 10 Modules, each one addressing an important element of our strategy to help, assist and encourage tolerance and promote community cohesion.
“‘Issues of Community Cohesion’ is just one of the 10 modules, this explores the impact of the 7/7 bombings, this is a factual module which is complimented by the DVD. The module has been carefully produced to encourage debate and discussions on what happened on 7/7. It provides young people with the opportunity to explore and share ideas with a view to breaking down stereotypes, barriers and prejudices.”