Councillor defends schools pack on July 7 bombings
Mar 5 2009 Huddersfield Daily Examiner
A TOP councillor has defended a plan to ask teenagers to think like a suicide bomber.
The Calderdale Council schools pack encourages young people to examine the reasons for the July 7 bombings in London, 2005, when four men from West Yorkshire murdered 52 commuters.
The Government withdrew the packs last month after negative media coverage.
But Clr Craig Whittaker defended the teaching plan yesterday.
The Rastrick Conservative, who is in charge of schools in Calderdale, said: “The furore around these packs is out of context. I wholly endorse and support these packs, I think they’re exemplary. I think the packs are a great piece of community cohesion work.”
The pack, called Things Do Change, teaches pupils aged 14 to 16 about multiculturalism. Part of the course involves group work, where one set of pupils are asked to prepare a presentation on the July 7 attacks from the perspective of the bombers.
Clr Whittaker, who has three children, said: “I think the packs are exemplary because they ask young people to look at things from all perspectives.
“Our children will have to deal with the legacy of the July 7 bombings so it’s important for them to understand all perspectives. The pack doesn’t ask children to agree with the bombers by any stretch of the imagination – it asks them to understand.”
Clr Whittaker, who is Calderdale’s Cabinet member for children and young people, believes teenagers are able to talk about issues raised in the pack.
He said: “I find that young people in schools in Calderdale are able to have mature discussions. I don’t think these packs are beyond what a young person at Key Stage 4 can understand.”
The pack, put together by Calderdale Council, was displayed on the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) website as a way of addressing controversial issues. But ministers decided to withdraw it last month, saying it was “misguided and inappropriate”.
Clr Whittaker revealed the packs were being altered. He said: “The Government has indicated that we should slightly amend the wording before the packs are reissued.”
But, he added: “The original was endorsed by The Times and The Guardian. We sold more than 100 copies and the packs were hailed by the DCSF.”
The 10-part pack comes with a DVD. The first module examines all religions and the “golden rule” of treating others as you would want to be treated.
A later module focuses specifically on the July 7 bombings and its impact on different communities in Britain. It suggests pupils look at the attacks from the perspective of the bombers, Muslims in Britain, non-Muslim Asians in Britain and other Britons in general.
All the bombers – Mohammad Siddique Khan, Shezad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay – were from West Yorkshire.
Khan, generally regarded as the ringleader of the suicide bomb gang, lived in Thornhill Lees with his wife and young daughter.
Lindsay was a former Rawthorpe High School student regarded as a sporting star of the future. Hussain and Tanweer lived in Leeds.