London – A CAGE led survey launched in March 2022 has revealed the huge lengths schools across the country went to in demonstrating support for Ukraine following the February 2022 Russian invasion.  The survey -which received 532 responses from parents, students and teachers- also revealed a cavalier attitude to due diligence, including collaboration with organisations with far right links, the soft penetration of security and PREVENT linked think tanks to educate schools on ‘disinformation’ about the war. In a small number of examples, schools were also raising funds for military gear.
The survey revealed:
- 96% confirmed proactive engagement on the Ukraine issue by schools (including holding non-uniform days, activities, donation appeals or acknowledgements in newsletters.)
- 62% indicated their schools had fundraised or hosted donation drives for Ukraine.
- 17% mentioned schools promoted motifs of the Ukraine flag, such as encouraging children to wear blue and yellow for non-uniform days, or hoisting the Ukraine flag on school grounds.
- Shockingly, in a small number of cases, funds were raised for military gear through the far right-linked Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain .
- Former Prime Minister and alleged war criminal, Tony Blair’s ‘Institute for Global Change’ was given access to schools by the Government alongside PREVENT -supporting Institute of Strategic Dialogue to instruct schools on ‘disinformation’ and tackling extremism.
- Dozens of respondents pointed out the disparity in comparison with the widespread repression of Palestine solidarity seen in schools last year with dozens of parents challenging their schools on it. This included reluctance to raise awareness of or discuss the conflict, to fundraise for Palestine, and active suppression of the Palestinian flag in schools. Schools made active efforts to silence discussion of the Israeli attack on Palestine or educate children on the context and history of the region.
One respondent described their experience with their daughter’s school said:
‘They deflected questions and didn’t give students the answers they were looking for when asked why funds were being raised for Ukraine and they weren’t even allowed to wear badges for Palestine. The only time where they directly spoke about Palestine was in an email about a year ago and it was discouraging any efforts to raise funds. The double standards are uncanny.’
The study brings into contrast the stark disparity between how the 2022 invasion of Ukraine was approached versus how the issue of Palestine was dealt with in the context of Israel’s 2021 war on Gaza. The mainstream coverage of Ukrainian ‘resistance’ was almost entirely bereft of the overly cautious and highly securitised approach taken towards Palestinians defending themselves against Israel.
This approach was reflected in Government policy, which seeped into schools and educational institutions including public libraries and extra-curricular clubs. A post by the Department for Education entitled ‘Help for teachers and families to talk to pupils about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how to help them avoid misinformation’ was widely referred to by respondents as a resource relied upon by schools.
Around the same time last year, then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson issued a letter to schools validating the widespread suppression and sanctioning of Palestine solidarity in schools across the country, which used the spectre of antisemitism and rules about political impartiality to crack down on any and all signs of support for Palestine among pupils – and in cases, staff. This letter was the subject of a Judicial Review brought by CAGE that was not allowed to proceed to a full hearing on technical grounds..
Author of the Study and Head of Research at CAGE, Azfar Shafi said:
“The research seeks to illustrate what many have instinctively felt to be a stark disparity between how solidarity with Palestinians was repressed in British schools, compared to the expansive support extended to Ukrainians. The hundreds of cases, testimonies and documents we received proved beyond doubt that this has been the case – and illustrate the wide variety of forms this has taken.”
“Despite the sharp differences, the research uncovered some notable convergences in the way that the government approached the questions of Palestine and Ukraine in school. Whether under the banner of countering ‘extremism’, preventing ‘antisemitism’ or tackling ‘disinformation’, there has been a concerted effort to stage-manage the terms of political discussion in school, including through the use of security thinktanks, to firmly align with British foreign policy interests.”
Read the survey briefing: Understanding Ukraine and Palestine solidarity in UK Schools in full here.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)