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26 Jun 2024

Navigating Political Impartiality in Schools

Nurturing informed thinkers

Navigating political discussions in the classroom can often feel like walking a tightrope. There’s a need to inspire passionate debate and critical thinking, balanced with the responsibility to maintain political impartiality. At VotesforSchools, we believe these goals are not mutually exclusive. Fostering considered and insightful opinions is key to meaningful education.

Understanding political impartiality

Political impartiality means presenting political issues fairly and without bias, allowing students to form their own views. This concept is particularly important in subjects like PSHE, where discussions often touch on contemporary and sometimes contentious political topics. Impartiality helps prevent the undue influence of teachers' personal beliefs on students, ensuring a balanced education that respects - and encourages - diverse perspectives.

The DfE’s guidance on political impartiality

In February 2022, the Department for Education (DfE) issued updated guidance on political impartiality in schools. This guidance provides a framework to navigate politically-sensitive topics:

  • Balanced presentation: Present different viewpoints fairly and with equal emphasis.

  • Avoiding bias: Do not promote partisan political views in teaching.
  • Resource selection: Use teaching materials that do not unduly favour one political perspective over others.
  • Context matters: Tailor the approach to the age and maturity of students.

The VotesforSchools platform is an excellent tool in this regard, offering resources and support to help teachers provide balanced and informative lessons on current political issues.

Download guidance

Practical strategies for maintaining political impartiality

  1. Diversify resources: Use a range of materials from different political perspectives. Include articles, videos, and guest speakers representing various viewpoints.

  2. Structured debates: Organise classroom debates where students research and present opposing views on a political issue. This encourages critical thinking and understanding of multiple sides of an argument. Focus on the broad brush strokes when comparing parties and their manifestos to avoid getting lost in the specifics.

  3. Clear guidelines: Establish and communicate clear guidelines for discussions on political issues. Encourage respectful dialogue and remind students that the goal is to understand different perspectives and come to their own decisions.
  4. Reflective teaching: Regularly reflect on your teaching practices and materials to ensure they remain impartial. Seek feedback from colleagues or supervisors.
  5. Student-led inquiry: Encourage students to explore political issues independently and present their findings. Use prompts like "Tell me more" to get students to elaborate on their thoughts without leading them.
  6. Public insights: Use public insights, such as YouGov polls or election results, to gauge the wider public mood. Ask students to draw their own conclusions about why these might be the case and how this might affect their decision-making. Ensure they're thinking critically about their source material, whether it’s social media, friends and family, or manifestos and TV debates.
  7. Values-based discussions: When discussing political pledges, bring the conversation back to students’ own values. For example, if discussing policies on health or education, ask them to consider how these align with their personal values and priorities. This helps them think about their choices and beliefs independently of external influences.

Why it matters

Informed and curious students become resilient, inquisitive, and proactive citizens. Cultivating empathy, tolerance, and critical thinking skills ensures that the next generation is politically literate and engaged. Given that many of the students you work with will be old enough to vote in the next election - and with votes at 16 on the table - setting a precedent now could have long-term benefits. 

Join the conversation

Maintaining political impartiality can be challenging, but VotesforSchools is here to support you. By fostering an environment of balanced discussion and critical thinking, we contribute to a more informed, empathetic, and engaged society.

For more resources and support, reach out to us at


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