Batley Grammar teacher at centre of row over Prophet Mohammed image allowed to return to class

A teacher who was suspended after showing children at Batley Grammar School a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed can return to the classroom.

A police officer observes protesters gathered outside Batley Grammar School in Batley, West Yorkshire, where a teacher was suspended for reportedly showing a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils during a religious studies lesson in March. Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

An independent investigation into the incident - which provoked a nationwide row and protests - has concluded that the teaching staff involved in the Religious Studies (RS) lesson did not intend to cause offence with the image.

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But the Batley Multi Academy Trust, which runs the school in west Yorkshire, has said the topics covered by the lesson "could have been effectively addressed in other ways and without using the image".

The trust added that it is "not necessary for staff to use the material in question to deliver the learning outcomes on the subject of blasphemy".

In March, the Batley Multi Academy Trust announced an independent inquiry into the "context" of how Year 9 pupils at the school were shown a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed during an RS lesson.

It came after protesters gathered outside the school and a teacher was suspended over the incident.

The independent investigation confirmed that the image was used on more than one previous occasion.

In an executive summary of the report, the trust said teaching staff "genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit".

But the trust said it recognises that using the image did cause "deep offence" to a number of students, parents and members of the school community, adding that it "deeply regrets the distress" caused.

A spokeswoman for the Batley Multi Academy Trust said: "We accept the recommendations of the independent expert investigation and will put them into practice immediately.

"The investigation recommends that the issues raised can be effectively dealt with through additional management guidance and training.

"The findings are clear, that the teaching staff involved did not use the resource with the intention of causing offence, and that the topics covered by the lesson could have been effectively addressed in other ways.

"In the light of those conclusions, the suspensions put in place while the investigation was under way will now be lifted."

A spokeswoman for the National Education Union (NEU) said: "We are very pleased that the correct decision has been reached regarding our members at Batley Grammar School.

"Our members engaged fully with the investigation, and we are delighted that the threat and worry of disciplinary action has been removed."

She added: "The impact of threats along with media speculation and commentary cannot be underestimated.

"It has been extremely distressing for all directly involved and our members want to put this worrying and difficult time behind them as best as they can."

The teaching union is calling on the Department for Education (DfE) to step up and support teachers and schools urgently with guidance around the teaching of controversial issues as part of the RE curriculum.

Kim Leadbeater, the Labour candidate for the by-election in the Batley and Spen constituency in West Yorkshire, said: "The report from the independent experts offers a lot for people to unite around. The most important thing is that the children can get on with their education without any further disruption.

"I appreciate emotions have run high but this should not have disrupted the pupils' education on top of the impact of the pandemic."

Ms Leadbeater, who is sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, added that it was "completely unacceptable that a teacher was forced into hiding and his family were put at risk".

She said: "The report makes clear that while mistakes were made, this was not done out of any malice or ill-intent. Staff should now be supported to get on with the important job of helping all their pupils get the best education possible."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Batley Grammar has rightly set out a plan to move forward from the events of previous weeks.

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