Brexit row 'dreadful lesson' for children

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education and family correspondent

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image captionHead teachers say the Brexit debate has become a terrible example for the young

Young people are being taught "dreadful lessons" about behaviour by the angry rows over Brexit, says the principal of Gordonstoun - the private school in Moray attended by the Prince of Wales.

Lisa Kerr warns that scenes such as the protests against MP Anna Soubry are undermining efforts in schools to teach tolerance and respect for other views.

"It seems that simply taking part in a topical and important debate now makes you a target for abuse," says Ms Kerr.

She called for a more positive example.

"As well as being deeply depressing for us adults, this is teaching dreadful lessons to our children," said Ms Kerr, principal of the school that taught Prince Charles, his brother the Duke of York and their father, the Duke of Edinburgh.


She is concerned about pupils watching scenes of MPs and journalists being "hounded" over their views.

Ms Kerr was backed by the leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, Geoff Barton, who said teachers were "dismayed" at the behaviour in the Brexit dispute.

"It's sending out a message that you can resort to intimidation," he said.

The head teachers' leader said schools made a point of showing that you could disagree with someone but still behave with "civility" but that was "unravelling before our eyes".

The Gordonstoun principal said teachers needed to show that despite the divisions opened up over Brexit, "we can still be tolerant of each other's beliefs and recognise the value of each other's cultures".

Ms Kerr said the language should be about "taking positive action" rather than "taking back control".

She warned of the prejudices that could be inflamed by "destructive rhetoric".

"Inaccurate assumptions about people from other countries have fuelled a rise in racism, which has set people against each other," said the independent school principal.

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