School-based Holocaust Education in Scotland
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.
Discover more about our new Online Masters Module in Citizenship and Holocaust Education - available from January 2020. (Closing date for application: 5th August 2020)
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.
Details of the impact
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.
Continued Professional Learning at UWS
Vision Schools Scotland delivers free face-to-face and online Continued Professional Learning to schools in the Vision Schools Scotland network. This type of learning is delivered by the University of the West of Scotland, Vision Schools Scotland’s partner, the Holocaust Educational Trust and established Holocaust education providers, such as Yad Vashem.
Information on the 2021 delivery of the distance learning Masters levels Module Citizenship and Holocaust Education will be posted here. Click here for information of the 2020 delivery of this module.
- Maitles, H. and Cowan, P. (2008) “Why are we learning this?”: Does Studying the Holocaust Encourage Better Citizenship Values? Genocide Studies and Prevention 3 (3): 341-352
- Cowan, P. and Maitles, H. (2010) Policy and Practice of Holocaust Education in Scotland, Prospects, 40 (2):257-272
- Maitles, H. (2010) Why Does Wearing A Yellow Bib Make Us Different?: A Case Study of Explaining Discrimination in a West of Scotland Secondary (High) School, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 8 (1): 246-261
- Cowan, P. and Maitles, H. (2011) “We Saw Inhumanity Close Up”: What is gained by school students from Scotland visiting Auschwitz? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43 (2):163-184
- Maitles, H. and Cowan, P. (2012) “It reminded me of what really matters”: teacher responses to the Lessons from Auschwitz Project, Educational Review, 6 (2):131-143
- Cowan, P. (2013) Reconceptualising the Holocaust and Holocaust Education in countries that escaped Nazi occupation: a Scottish perspective, Intercultural Education, 24 (1-2):167-179
- Cowan, P. (2008) Learning about the Holocaust and responsible citizenship in Scotland, Race Equality Teaching, 26(2):36-39. Practitioner’s publication that focusses on race equality in education.
- Cowan, P. (2010) Scotland’s New Approaches to Learning about the Holocaust and Racism, Race Equality Teaching, 28(2): 27-30. Practitioner’s publication that focusses on race equality in education.
- Cowan, P. (2012) Visiting Auschwitz-Valuable Lessons or Holocaust Tourism? In Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom: Key Issues and Debates, edited by P. Cowan and H. Maitles,142-151, London: Continuum. Book for teachers, community educators and student teachers.
- Cowan, P. and Maitles, H. (2012) Pedagogical Issues in Teaching the Holocaust. In Teaching Controversial Issues in the Classroom: Key Issues and Debates, edited by P. Cowan and H. Maitles,120-129, London: Continuum. Book for teachers, community educators and student teachers.
- Davis, B.L. and Rubinstein–Avila, E. (2013) Holocaust education: global forces shaping curricula integration and implementation, Intercultural Education, 24(1-2), p.149. Academic journal that is a global forum for educational professionals with an interest in implementation of intercultural education.
- The Holocaust Educational Trust, (2009) Never Again: How the Lessons From Auschwitz Project Impacts on Schools in Scotland, London: The Holocaust Educational Trust. http://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/26234/1/strathprints026234.pdf, Report written by Cowan and Maitles
- International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance,(2012) ITF (Taskforce for International Cooperation in Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research), Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research in the United Kingdom.
- Maitles, H. and Cowan, P. (2009) Seeing the world today from a different viewpoint: the impact of the lessons from Auschwitz project on schools in Scotland, http://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/26249/
Conference paper disseminated to academics in Europe at the CiCe conference.
Vision Schools Scotland
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:
- identifying and rewarding schools who demonstrate innovation and good practice in this area
- encouraging the sharing of good practice of school based Holocaust education
- promoting the importance of Continued Professional Learning in Holocaust education for Scottish teachers, helping them develop confidence and proficiency in Holocaust teaching
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.
RESPONSE TO COVID 2019
Our thanks to those schools who have submitted their applications for 2020. In response to teacher requests, we have extended our deadline and are continuing to do our very best to accommodate schools at this very difficult and stressful time. The dates for submitting in 2021 will be posted on the Vision Schools Scotland website in August.
Vision Schools Scotland is seeking to identify the online platform that is shared by most or all of its participating schools. This will provide an alternative to the scheduled face-to-face CPD events and enable us to continue to support teachers in their professional learning. As Vision Schools are from a wide range of councils with different practices and policies, this is particularly challenging.
Vision Schools Scotland additionally deliver face-to-face and online presentations on the value of Holocaust Education and the value of Vision Schools Scotland, to local authorities. We have presented to teachers in North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire and aim to present these to every local authority in Scotland.
ANNUAL AWARD EVENT
If social distancing remains in place at the time of the award in November 2020, this event will be rescheduled. It will either be held online, or held as planned with a smaller, permitted number of participants at the Scottish Parliament. Schools will be notified of any such change.
Vision Schools Scotland Political Patrons
Vision Schools Scotland is delighted to receive widespread support across the political landscape in Scotland.
Jackie Baillie MSP
I am delighted to become a patron for Vision Schools Scotland. They carry out fantastic and important work in our schools. I think it is essential to continue educating the next generation on the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons that must be learnt from it.
Jackson Carlaw MSP
I was delighted to be asked if I would accept the offer to become a patron for the hugely important Vision Schools Scotland educational endeavour.
The initiative seeks to formally recognise schools who are devoting time in the classroom towards educating their pupils about the events of the holocaust and the lessons that its horrors impart upon us all.
It is fantastic that councils and schools from across Scotland are engaging with Vision Schools Scotland and that once being made aware of the accreditation, many teachers are aiming to secure the award for their schools.
Year-on-year, Vision Schools Scotland, continues to grow and I am very pleased to be involved with the project as it goes from strength to strength.
Alison Johnstone MSP
Alison Johnstone is a Scottish Green Party politician, who has served as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Lothian region since 2011.
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP
I’m delighted to be a Patron for Vision Schools Scotland as I whole-heartedly believe in the aim of supporting primary and secondary teachers promoting Holocaust education. Through the lessons taught by the Holocaust, we can tackle prejudice and discrimination and foster an approach to Holocaust Education which focuses on anti-Semitism in the modern world. I believe the mission of Vision Schools is an important one in today’s society.
Emma Harper MSP
We must never forget but learn from past events and on Monday 27th January – National Holocaust Memorial Day - we must stand together to ensure the likes of the Holocaust never happens again.
Every person is of value. It’s absolutely vital that each generation learns about the atrocities which resulted from evil Nazi policies and their persecution of community groups so I wholeheartedly support Holocaust education for this reason.
Vision Schools Scotland is an excellent programme taught across primary and secondary schools in Scotland. This expertly researched Holocaust education teaches young people about anti-racism, citizenship and religious equality, in addition to looking at the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust.
I’d like to commend Paula Cowan and Henry Maitles on the publishing their book Understanding and Teaching Holocaust Education. UWS's research on the provision of Holocaust education in schools in Scotland has helped shape future United Nation’s programmes, influencing teaching pedagogy in Scotland and further afield in the international community.
Becoming a Vision School
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.
Vision School - Level 1
Level 1 Vision School status will be awarded to primary and secondary schools that provide evidence that they have met the following criteria:
- Received full support from the Senior Management Team with Holocaust education being embedded in the school.
- Exercised good practice of a sustainable approach to teaching the Holocaust (over a minimum of two consecutive years), with a clear focus on Social Studies, and meaningful connections with other curricular areas in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Scottish curriculum
- Encouraged responsible citizenship through issues raised in Holocaust education.
- Shared and developed good practice with peers, practitioners, and/or Holocaust education providers, e.g. the Holocaust Educational Trust, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, local libraries and museums.
- Identified Continued Professional Learning in Holocaust education.
Vision School - Level 2
Level 2 Vision School status will be awarded to primary and secondary schools who meet the following criteria:
- Achieved Level 1 Vision School status and consistently maintained the criteria for Level 1 Young people taking an active lead as responsible citizens in their school and wider community to share their learning and address issues raised by Holocaust education
- Demonstrated that their students take an active lead in Holocaust education in their school and wider community
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.
Vision Schools Scotland - new SCQF level 11 module in Citizenship and Holocaust Education
How to Apply
Vision Schools 2019
St Rochs High School
St Thomas' Primary School
Barrhead High School
Campbeltown Grammar School
Kelso High School
Pictured below, guest speaker Barbara Winton with the 2019 Vision Schools.
Teaching the Holocaust Through Art:
St Columba's High School
How to Apply
Expressions of Interest for 2020 have now closed - further information regarding 2021 will be updated in September 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:
- 21st October 2019 – 27th January 2020: school submit their expression of interest in applying for Vision Schools Scotland accreditation
- 13th April - 15th May 2020: schools submit Vision School Scotland applications
- End of June: schools receive feedback on their application
- November: successful schools awarded Vision Schools accreditation
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.
Application Forms & How to Submit
There are three ways to submit:
- Send your complete application, with attachments and an accompanying letter on a USB to Jane Caffrey, Vision Schools Scotland, University of the West of Scotland, Lanarkshire Campus, Stephenson Place, Hamilton International Technology Park, South Lanarkshire, G72 0LH.
- Electronically by email to VisionSchools@uws.ac.uk (FAO Jane Caffrey). First email entitled Application Form. Second email entitled Criteria 1 (with attachments). Third email entitled Criteria 2 (with attachments) and so on until attachments for all criteria are sent
- Electronically using Dropbox. This should be arranged as in 2 (above)
Vision Schools Application Forms
Download Level 1 application form (MS Word or pdf formats)
- Vision Schools Scotland Level 1 Application Form (MS Word)
- Vision Schools Scotland Level 1 Application Form (pdf)
Download Level 2 application form (MS Word or pdf formats)
Ensure that you have done the following:
- Completed the application form
- Included a brief explanation of your evidence in each of the five criteria boxes at the end of the application form
- Labelled each attachment according to the criteria
- Clearly referenced each attachment in the relevant ‘evidence’ box in the application form
Application forms should be returned to Jane Caffrey at VisionSchools@uws.ac.uk between 15th April - 13th May 2020.
What to expect after applying
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.
Teaching Scotland Issue 71 - GTC Scotland
Useful links for primary and secondary teachers
The UK Government’s definition of antisemitism is based on the following working definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
The working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Videos & Audios
Holocaust (54 secs) - Dr. David Silberklang, Yad Vashem answers “What is the Holocaust?”.
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.
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.
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
Books and Guidelines
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
IHRA Recommendations on Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust. - Launched in December 2019, these new recommendations are IHRA's response to the transformation in the field of teaching and learning about the Holocaust that has taken place over the last twenty years. Recognising the current challenges that educators require to navigate, the recommendations aim to provide educators with fact-based and educationally sound techniques for teaching the complex and nuanced history of the Holocaust.
The Wiener Holocaust Libary - The Holocaust explained: The Complete Introduction to the Holocaust designed for school.
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)
Parents’ views of their primary aged children learning about the Holocaust (2019). (Download (PDF).
Scotland and the Holocaust
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.
Remembering, Rev. Ernest Levy, OBE, cantor teacher and author (1925-2009).
Remembering Marianne Grant (1921-2007)
Audio and transcript of Marianne’s daughter, Geraldine Shenkin talking about her late mother (3mins).