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Guidance on teaching sensitive and controversial topics

Teaching about the events and aftermath of 9/11 can be challenging for a number of reasons. Our research has shown that both teachers and students have varying degrees of knowledge about 9/11. On top of that, many of the issues are complex and some are controversial, all of which adds to the potential demands made on teachers. This guidance provides advice for teachers on how you can tackle these, and other sensitive topics, in your classroom.

Aspects of 9/11 are potentially extremely sensitive and may need to be handled with care. This is especially true if teaching Muslim students who may have encountered hostility as a result of some media coverage of 9/11 and other terrorist events. Some of the suggested activities for assemblies, tutor time and whole-school events may need to be adapted to take account of this.

It is possible that someone in your school has suffered the loss of a family member or friend through a terrorist attack, e.g. in the London 7/7 attacks or fighting in Syria. Do all you can to check whether this is the case before proceeding with any of these activities, and act accordingly as you see fit. If in doubt, consult senior leaders in the school.