While immigration from EU countries and beyond continues to be a frequent topic in public discourse, the same cannot be said about the emigration of British citizens. This is a pattern we can also see when we look at the teaching of migration history in schools. Together with its neglect in public debate this goes some way towards explaining why migration can now be cast so easily as a one way street into the UK when in actual fact British people have been amongst the most prolific migrants for centuries.
Yet while inward movements to the UK have received a lot of attention — not least in the context of Brexit — the quality of the debate has been poor. Sadly, this also seems to be true for at least some of the teaching of this contemporary migration and freedom of movement.
Over the last year a number of very problematic learning materials were used in some schools that deal with the movement of EU citizens to the UK. Earlier this week I was sent a worksheet that was used in a Year 9 Geography class. Not only were there several grammatical errors on the worksheet — a fact that initially made me question its origins — the worksheet might as well have been a copy and paste job from an EDL pamphlet.
With a particular focus on Polish EU citizens, the worksheet was full of baseless statements about their negative impact, from criminality to social unrest. At best, the worksheet was misleading; at worst it was directly inflammatory. It had an immediate impact. With at least one Polish student in the class where the worksheet was used, it caused that student great distress.
For the third time in less than a year I am sharing a worksheet on migration handed out in a school in England. This was given to Year 9 Geography students. The exercise looks at the impacts of migration, singling out Polish EU citizens. Let's have a closer look. 1/ pic.twitter.com/FCjXPS4SWG
— Prof Tanja Bueltmann (@cliodiaspora) February 5, 2019
The worksheet originated as a user submission to the TES website, a platform for sharing learning resources. Regrettably, TES does not provide quality control, relying instead on users reporting problematic materials. That system failed in this instance, but at least the TES team apologised and acted swiftly when this was brought to their attention.