London – In a blow to free speech, High Court judge Dame Beverley Lang DBE, has today allowed the Department of Education to continue its clamp down on Palestine solidarity in schools after denying permission for a judicial review brought by CAGE.

The legal challenge was in relation to a discriminatory letter sent to schools by the then Education Minister Gavin Williamson. The letter gave instructions to schools on how to present the occupation of Palestine and blocked them from working with organisations that challenged Israel’s right to exist. It also recommended schools to work with organisations that have an openly Pro-Israel view of the occupation to deliver a ‘balanced’ presentation of the issue.

CAGE argued that this letter not only had the effect of discriminating and censoring Muslim students in particular, but also violated the tradition and legal requirement of impartiality that has been the bulwark against state propaganda.

In response CAGE is today releasing a summary of responses to a survey issued towards the beginning of the Ukraine war, requesting information about the response of school to the issue.

 The survey received 532 responses in total, with 470 responses being deemed usable.
Of those, 96% confirmed that their or their child’s school had proactively engaged on the issue by schools – including by hosting or promoting fundraiser and donation drives, holding assemblies or lessons on the issue, covering it in newsletters, or hosting some other activity for pupils.





Assembly or lesson


School holding assemblies or lessons focused on the Russia-Ukraine war, or covering them

Newsletters or comms


Acknowledgement of the war in newsletters to parents, often coupled with resources or appeals



Fundraising appeals and donation drives – either conducted by the school, or directing to local and 3rd party drives



Activities in school, involving children including bake sales, crafts and non-uniform days





The openness with which schools have expressed often forceful solidarity with Ukraine belies the excuses that largely Muslim pupils and parents were subject to last years by schools last year to justify ignoring the war on Gaza. Indeed many of the respondents spoke to this disparity in explicit terms, detailing how they or their children had suffered disciplinary punishment, threats, even physical aggression by teachers for showing support for Palestinians.

This includes even mild forms of support such as wearing colours or representations of the Palestine flag – whereas 77 survey responses mention schools actively promoting 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.

This contrast speaks to the unique type of securitisation, racism and Islamophobia that Palestinians are subject to by individuals – but more importantly, to the political culture enabled and fostered by the government, which has been very selective as to which issues are deemed worthy of solidarity, and which are subject to securitisation.

Muhammad Rabbani, Managing Director of CAGE said:

“The decision today is disappointing but unsurprising. It validates the Department of Educations attempts to police the Palestine debate at our schools in favour of the pro Israel narrative. The choreographing of political discussions in this way within schools is akin to the manner of autocratic regimes and seriously curtails freedom of speech.”

Fahad Ansari, Solicitor and Director of Riverway Law leading on this Judicial Review said:

“We are very disappointed that the High Court has failed to protect the freedom of expression of pupils who wish to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

“The Court has essentially enabled the government to compel head teachers and school leaders to adopt a partisan view on the Israeli-Palestinian issue thereby shifting their role from education to indoctrination. Equating the rejection of the State of Israel’s ‘right to exist’ with antisemitism is not only factually wrong but undermines the fight against genuine antisemitism.”




Photo by Luke White on Unsplash

(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.)