A teacher who was suspended after showing a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils can return to the classroom.
An independent investigation into the incident at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire – which provoked a nationwide row and protests – has concluded that the teaching staff involved in the religious studies lesson did not intend to cause offence with the image.
In an executive summary of the report, the Batley Multi Academy Trust, which runs the school, said teaching staff “genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit”.
But it also said the topics covered during the class “could have been effectively addressed in other ways and without using the image” and that it was “not necessary for staff to use the material in question to deliver the learning outcomes on the subject of blasphemy”.
It said it recognised that using the image did cause “deep offence” to a number of students, parents and members of the school community, and added that it “deeply regrets the distress” caused.
Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are considered deeply offensive in the Muslim faith.
The caricature was shown to students in a lesson on 22 March, according to a letter to parents seen by Sky News at the time.
People had gathered outside the school to demand the resignation of the teacher involved.
The school’s headteacher Gary Kibble apologised following the incident for the use of what he described as “a totally inappropriate image” during the religious studies lesson and said “it should not have been used”.
An independent inquiry into the “context” of how Year 9 pupils at the school came to be shown the image was announced following protests and the suspension of the teacher.
A spokeswoman for the 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.”
It added: “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 its members at the school engaged fully with the investigation, adding “the correct decision has been reached” and it was “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 NEU has urged 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 religious studies curriculum.
A DfE spokesperson said: “Batley Grammar has rightly set out a plan to move forward from the events of previous weeks.
“We would encourage parents, families and the local community to recognise the findings of the independent investigation – that the teachers who used the images in question had no negative intent – and to welcome and support the Trust’s comprehensive plan to strengthen its oversight of the curriculum.”
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, welcomed the decision to lift suspensions, but added: “The Trust’s stated commitment to ensuring offence is not caused is a route to censorship, and sets a very poor precedent.
“The outcome of this local investigation will affect teachers’ ability to do their jobs across the country. So the government should face questions over its failure to show leadership when fundamental principles were at stake.”
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