UWS's research on the provision of Holocaust education in schools in Scotland has helped shape future United Nations programmes, influencing teaching pedagogy in Scotland and in the international community. Paula Cowan and Henry Maitles’ book Understanding and Teaching Holocaust Education was awarded Best Praxis Publication 2017, by the Children's Identity and Citizenship in Europe (CiCe).
Our findings have contributed to the recognition of the positive value of school based Holocaust education as evidenced in Scotland by local authorities’ provision of Continued Professional Development courses in teaching the Holocaust to teachers, and increasing the number of Scottish schools commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
Further, the research has contributed to the political debate on the value of school visits to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust Memorial and Museum, and educational debates on the contribution of Holocaust to Citizenship education.
The impacts reported in this case study emerge from research spanning the period 2008-2013, and led by Dr Paula Cowan and Professor Henry Maitles. The empirical research involves young people aged 11-19, and several teachers, across Scotland and the discursive research analyses the nature of Holocaust education in Scotland and the continued relevance of the Holocaust to Scotland in schools and their communities.
The first research phase was commissioned through the Scottish Executive Education Department and was a longitudinal study that investigated short and long term impact of Holocaust education on students’ values and attitudes. Findings provide evidence that students aged 10-12 years are open to learning about controversial issues such as the Holocaust and that their attitudes towards minority groups are more positive after they have studied the Holocaust.
The second research phase was funded by the Pears Foundation and the Holocaust Educational Trust (2008-2009) and followed a pilot study conducted by Dr Cowan in 2006 with grant support from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland (2006). The research investigated the views of students and teachers who participated in the first Lessons From Auschwitz Project (LFAP) in Scotland. Findings suggested that school participation in the LFAP led to more school based teaching of the Holocaust and contributed significantly to developing students’ citizenship, that the curriculum was enhanced by inputs from the LFAP participants, and that teacher participation motivated their teaching of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education and contributed to their professional development. Teachers’ highest perceived gains were in their knowledge of antisemitism, genocide, human rights, Auschwitz and the Holocaust. These findings challenged the negative view visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum often depicted as dark tourism and provided evidence of the positive value of this educational Project.
Further research linking the teaching of the Holocaust with citizenship issues – in particular in this case involving simulations – showed that young people aged about 12 were open to challenging aspects of discrimination that were in the simulation in their school; it further suggested that one of the key stages outlined by the UN in genocide – the identification, labelling and isolation of the ‘other’ – is worryingly easy to orchestrate, but that there are significant numbers who are unhappy about it and wanted to challenge the policy.
The discursive analyses of this research raised the profile of Holocaust education in Scotland by making comparisons with Holocaust education in England, and examining Scotland’s connections with the Holocaust. Discussion of Scottish initiatives in relation to school educational policies, practices and priorities concluded that young people in Scotland were becoming increasingly engaged in school and community based education, and that the curriculum, commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day and the LFAP were principal factors in this engagement. This research conceptualizes connections to the Holocaust which is helpful to similar countries that were on the margins of the Holocaust.
The research described above has impacted firstly on the development of Holocaust education in Scotland and secondly on the nature of Holocaust education in a wider international context.
The former is shown by invitations to give additional presentations or to lead CPD programmes on Holocaust education for teachers (South Ayrshire, 2011; Dundee, 2011); or to speak at schools’ events for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) (Glasgow City Council, 2009; Renfrewshire Council, 2010). Further, Cowan was invited on the Holocaust Memorial Day (Scotland) Planning Group and has worked with Interfaith Scotland, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland on this Committee (since 2011) to organise the national HMD event and commemorative events for schools and the wider community. In addition, Cowan was invited to be the education advisor on a feasibility study for a Scottish Holocaust Study Centre in Glasgow (2013), funded by the Scottish Government, and has given key addresses at consultation meetings, attended by senior education managers, teachers and members of the Jewish community.
The latter is shown by Cowan’s keynote address at a UNESCO conference (Paris, 2011) on ‘Teaching difficult issues in primary schools: the example of the Holocaust’ where she addressed education managers, policy makers, teachers and academics from across Europe and also by Cowan’s appointment (in 2009) on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. As a delegate to the United Kingdom, this requires Cowan to attend two annual international meetings and sit on the Academic Working Group, which comprises historians, educationalists and academics from 32 countries. Cowan advises the UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues, in ensuring that the UK continues to play a prominent role in international discussions in all Holocaust-related matters, especially those relating to education and the opening of archives, with acknowledgement of Maitles and Cowan’s research in the UK annual country report.
Following numerous presentations at national and international academic conferences and research highlighting links between Holocaust education and citizenship, Professor Maitles has been elected President-elect of Children’s Identity and Citizenship in Europe (CiCe, an EU ERASMUS network). The CiCe international coordinator has confirmed that this was in large part because of Maitles’ research linking Holocaust and citizenship. Maitles has been invited to deliver keynote addresses on Holocaust and citizenship in both Florence, Italy (2006) and at the International Educational Association of South Africa annual conference (2013). At the latter conference, the Chief with specific responsibility for the United Nations Academic Impact initiative commented that Maitles’ research in Scotland impacted on the UN work around the ‘Unlearning Intolerance’ seminar suggestions for all UN countries. Maitles was also invited to speak at the Scottish Parliament meeting commemorating the UN International Day of Peace (2013) to MSPs, policy makers and teachers (testimonial 5). To further develop the links between the Holocaust and Citizenship learning, Cowan and Maitles edited a book for teachers and student teachers, ‘Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom’ (2012) endorsed below:
is a must read for educators concerned both with developing the values of an open democratic society and supporting young people to become thoughtful, empathetic, articulate, reasoned and critical individuals.”
Prof. Stuart Foster (Executive Director of the Centre for Holocaust Education at the Institute of Education)
The research conducted on the Lessons From Auschwitz Project in Scotland was the first systematic evaluation of the Project, and conducted when the future of Scotland’s participation in this Project was uncertain as the Scottish Government had not agreed to continue with its funding. This research therefore provided MSPs with evidence regarding the value of this Project on young people, teachers, their schools and their communities. The Holocaust Educational Trust referred to this research during its discussions with representatives of the Scottish Government and research findings assisted the Holocaust Educational Trust in their understanding of the distinctive features of the Scottish curriculum and in their development of teacher-only visits to Auschwitz. The Scottish Government has since renewed and increased its funding of this Project.
Closing date for application: 5th August 2019
Holocaust education comprises students’ learning about and from the Holocaust. Both types of learning contribute to anti-racist education and education for citizenship, and support religious equality. Lessons from the Holocaust will engage students in wider learning that explores the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust.
The School of Education has been working with schools on the Vision Schools project since 2015.
Many schools across Scotland engage in Holocaust education and the aims of Vision Schools Scotland are to promote excellence in Holocaust teaching by:
Holocaust education is taught in primary and secondary schools in Scotland, and many students across the country participate in the Lessons from Auschwitz Project, and annual Holocaust Memorial Day events and activities. Further, the view that Holocaust education should be part of a whole-establishment approach to promoting equality and inclusion and challenging discrimination and prejudice is supported by the Educational Institute of Scotland.
The Vision Schools Programme embeds the principles of Scotland’s curriculum, whose priorities include responsible citizenship, in which Education for Citizenship is permeated across the curriculum, in its encouragement of effective and sustained school-based Holocaust education. The expectation is that primary schools involvement in this applies to upper primary stages only.
The Vision Schools Programme supports primary and secondary teachers in their teaching of the Holocaust and in addressing antisemitism, through its CPD/CPL, website and award process. By awarding schools that have achieved the required criteria, Vision Schools Scotland creates and develops a schools’ network of good practice in Holocaust education.
Funded by The Gordon Cook Foundation and the Association of Jewish Refugees, Vision Schools Scotland is a partnership between the University of the West of Scotland and the Holocaust Educational Trust.
A Vision School will be committed to the view that the Holocaust is an important part of young people’s education, while appreciating the challenges that teaching the Holocaust can raise in primary and secondary schools. Schools therefore need to demonstrate their commitment to embedding Holocaust education in their school, to developing teacher knowledge and skills in Holocaust education, and achieving teacher expertise in this area.
The Vision Schools Scotland programme comprises two levels. Schools must have achieved Level 1 status before progressing to Level 2. Vision School status lasts for 3 years, after which schools are required to resubmit supporting evidence that their achieved level is being maintained.
The Education Team at the Holocaust Educational Trust contribute to evaluating Vision School applications and the development of the Programme.
Level 1 Vision School status will be awarded to primary and secondary schools that provide evidence that they have met the following criteria:
Level 2 Vision School status will be awarded to primary and secondary schools who meet the following criteria:
Demonstrated commitment to their staff’s Continued Professional Learning in Holocaust education.
In addition to the written submission, staff and a group of students are required to engage in dialogue with a member of the Vision Schools Team as part of the Level 2 accreditation and evaluation process.
Staff from Level 2 schools will be asked to be external assessors of Level 1 Vision Schools and provide mentoring and support to schools who have applied for the Vision School programme but who have not successfully met all the Level 1 criteria.
Expressions of Interest for 2019 are now closed. Expressions of interest for 2020 will be open from 21st October 2019 until 28th January 2020.
Schools which want to apply for Vision Schools Scotland accreditation are required to express their interest in this before submitting their application. Expressions of interest should be emailed to VisionSchools@uws.ac.uk FAO Jane Caffrey.
Vision Schools Scotland Timeline:
We recommend that applicants utilise the summary section within the application form to provide their evidence for each of the criteria. This provides context to, and strengthens your submission.
Each explained entry should be accompanied by an (electronic) attachment which is clearly labelled and or numbered so that Vision Schools reviewers can confirm that each of the criteria have been met. Attachments must be Word, pdf, or jpeg documents.
These can include scans of extracts of school development plans, teaching plans showing IDL, lesson plans and accompanying Powerpoints, samples of student work, evaluation of school practice, and other documents that provide evidence that your school has met the specific outcomes of each of the criteria.
There are three ways to submit:
Download Level 1 application form (MS Word or pdf formats)
Download Level 2 application form (MS Word or pdf formats)
Ensure that you have done the following:
Application forms should be returned to Jane Caffrey at VisionSchools@uws.ac.uk between 15th April - 13th May 2020.
Schools will be notified before the end of June of the Team’s decision. The Vision Schools Team will email this information to the lead teacher ( i.e. the teacher who has completed the application).
A member of the Team will visit successful schools to discuss their application and accreditation; and provide constructive written feedback to schools whose application the Team considers to be incomplete or weak. Schools can only apply for Vision Schools accreditation once in one year.
Q1: I have taught the Holocaust for 3 years in my school. Can I collate evidence of my teaching and my students’ learning and forward this to you?
A :No. You require to read the criteria and forward evidence that demonstrates that you have met each of the criteria. Evidence should be clearly labelled C1 (criteria 1), C2 (criteria 2), C3 (criteria 3), etc.
Q2: I teach primary 7 and teach the Holocaust to p7 pupils. Does the Holocaust require to be taught throughout the school to become a Vision School?
A:No. This is not necessary, and the Vision Schools Team would not expect the Holocaust to be taught across the primary school.
This website will support primary and secondary teachers in their teaching of the Holocaust and facilitate a network of teachers in Holocaust education in Scotland. We will therefore be posting teaching material to support teachers’ Continued Professional Learning as well as useful links to other Holocaust education providers. Teachers are therefore advised to regularly check this website for updates.
The UK Government’s definition of antisemitism is based on the following working definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Addressing Antisemitism Through Education (2018)- European Guidelines from UNESCO and OSCE. Download (PDF)
The working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Download (PDF)
Holocaust (54 secs) - Dr. David Silberklang, Yad Vashem answers “What is the Holocaust?”. Watch video
Antisemitism (14.52 mins) - You can choose to watch all the sections or choose one from the menu on the left. Antisemitism today (found at 12.10mins, 2.42mins in length) is particularly interesting and has specific relevance for responsible citizenship. Watch video
Holocaust Denial (15.35 mins) - TED Talk by Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, Behind the Lies of Holocaust Denial. Watch video
Holocaust Testimony (2hours 38mins), film from the Shoah Foundation of the testimony of Rev Ernest Levy (1925-2009) a Holocaust survivor who came to live in Scotland. Watch video
Audio recording from the BBC (53 mins 53 sec). Presenter Johnstone McKay speaks to Marianne Grant (1921-2007), a Holocaust survivor who came to live in Scotland. Listen
Courage: 60 Years of the UN Refugee Convention (2 mins) features two people who have come to Scotland in very different circumstances. One of these is Rosa Sacharin who came to Scotland on one of the Kindertransportes. Watch video
Jane Haining : The Scot who died in Auschwitz , a BBC film presented by Sally Magnusson (29 mins). Jane Haining (1897-1944), a Church of Scotland missionary who is the only Scot honoured for risking her life to save Jews during the Holocaust. Watch video
BBC clip of the story of Jane Haining in the Antiques Roadshow (4mins). Watch video
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s ‘Guide for Primary School Teachers’. Download (PDF)
Cowan, P. and Maitles, H. (2017) Understanding and Teaching Holocaust Education, London:Sage
Cowan, P. and Maitles, H. (eds.)(2012)Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom, London: Continuum
Sacharin, R.M. (2014) The Unwanted Jew, Tullibody: Diadem Books
This edition of Prism contains many interesting articles that can support IDL in this area. Auld Lang Syne:The Experiences of the Kinder in Scotland, focuses on the Scottish context. (pp. 24-29). Download (PDF)
A Selective, Annotated Guide to Holocaust Websites (2015) in Prism, pp.96-100. Download (PDF)
The Gathering the Voices website contains online oral testimony from men and women who sought sanctuary in Scotland to escape the Holocaust.
Situated in the centre of Glasgow, the Scottish Jewish Archive Centre collects and preserves material relating to the Jewish experience in Scotland over the past 200 years. This includes material during the Holocaust.