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Conservative MP Tom Hunt, member of the education select committee, told the group that Britain is not “some sort of racist hell hole” and the goal should be for young people to be proud to be British and a force for good.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who appeared before the committee today, said he agreed with this view, saying this is “the greatest country on earth. It took a boy from Baghdad who couldn’t speak a word of English and made him the member of parliament for the heart of England, Stratford on Avon, and Secretary of State for Education in her Majesty’s government. What country in the world delivers that - I can’t think of many.”
It comes after Mr Zahawi said pupils should be taught about the benefits of the British Empire, for example the civil service system it introduced in his home country of Iraq which he said served the country well for many decades.
Mr Hunt said: “It might be the desire from some on the left for our young people to be left with the impression that somehow our country is some sort of racist hellhole. It’s certainly not my view.
“I do think it’s important young people learn everything about their history, but overall I would like patriotism to be promoted in our schools unashamedly. The goal should be for our young people to be proud to be British and that on the whole we are a force of good.”
Labour MP Kim Johnson questioned how slavery could be taught in a “balanced way” and said schools need to talk about how black people were involved in their own emancipation and not just white politicians.
Mr Zahawi said students should be taught everything about the “abhorrent practice of the slave trade” as well as about everything else the empire delivered.
The education secretary also told MPs he will instruct staff in the department of education to get back to the office and go back to pre-pandemic working “immediately.”
He was challenged about the number of staff currently working in the office in his department by committee chair Robert Halfon, who said just 25 per cent of department for education staff are back in the office - the lowest figure in government. Mr Halfon said it did not seem fair when teachers and support staff are expected to be in school every day.
Mr Zahawi said: “We have got to do better. My instruction from my Prime Minister and from Cabinet yesterday is we have got to go back to pre covid working and office use, that’s what we will do and you will see us improve.”
He added: “We are going back to pre Covid working where I expect offices to return to normality pre the pandemic, that is my instruction to my teams, that is what you will see happen.”
It comes after Cabinet Office Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said Civil servants must stop working from home and return to the office to ensure government buildings are at full capacity.
Speaking at the Education Committee Mr Zahawi also said he is concerned about anti-Semitism in the National Union of Students. He said he is “worried about the NUS”, adding: “It feels like the NUS is going through the same sad predicament we saw with the Labour party under Corbyn.”