A Hillsborough campaigner and academic who has worked closely with bereaved families and survivors has welcomed an initiative for an official day across the Liverpool City Region’s schools, marking the disaster’s anniversary.
Phil Scraton, who led the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s research team and was primary author of its report and recommendations, would also like to see education about Hillsborough rolled out nationwide.
“I regularly receive emails from teachers throughout Britain and Ireland requesting information about Hillsborough,” he told LiverpoolWorld. “Hillsborough has resonance nationally and internationally.”
Educating school children about Hillsborough
Liverpool City Council unanimously passed a motion on Wednesday from councillor Ian Byrne, a Labour MP for West Derby, for the Hillsborough disaster to be taught in schools across Liverpool.
Cllr Byrne, who survived the tragedy when he was 16, is leading the Real Truth Legacy Project, a campaign to ‘ensure that current and future generations learn the truth about Hillsborough.’
The motion stated the ‘impact of the campaign of lies, smears and propaganda orchestrated by South Yorkshire Police in 1989 and promoted by willing politicians and media continues to this day, with far too many members of the public even now parroting discredited lies about the behaviour of Liverpool fans in attendance at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989’.
The project includes working towards adding education about Hillsborough to the national curriculum.
A dedicated Hillsborough Day in Liverpool would ‘see every Liverpool primary and secondary school taking part in a special assembly to mark the anniversary and to learn more about the disaster, the cover-up and the fight for justice through dedicated teaching resource packs made available to every school in the city region by local education leads’.
Hillsborough and the national curriculum
Professor Scraton, an emeritus professor in the school of law at Queen’s University Belfast, wrote Hillsborough: The Truth, which is viewed as a definitive account of the 1989 tragedy.
He also turned down an OBE in the Queen’s New Year honours list in 2016 stating that he could not accept an honour from those who had failed the bereaved and survivors of the disaster.
He told LiverpoolWorld: “One of the things I’m keen to promote is the extension of The Real Truth Legacy Project beyond Merseyside.”
Prof Scraton said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, he was giving talks across Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand about the disaster, the continuing injustices and the right to truth.
He said: “I support any initiative aimed at educating school children across Merseyside and the idea of having a commemorative day is important.
“But I also believe that the context, circumstances and aftermath of Hillsborough should be addressed nationally in schools.
“Because of their significance, the civil law proceedings that followed the disaster are taught across law schools.
“Students contact me from around the world researching a diversity of projects on Hillsborough focusing on the role of the media in the aftermath, the legal cases, the unique work of the panel, and the inquests.
"This includes an outstanding master’s thesis written at an Australian university.
“What makes Hillsborough unique is the complexity of the legal process. Even after three decades and an unlawful killing inquest verdict, none of those responsible have been held to account.”
Prof Scraton has consulted with the Grenfell campaign group following the 2017 fire which destroyed Grenfell Tower in West London.
He has written the foreword to the book After Grenfell: Violence Resistance and Response.
Prof Scraton said: “Furthermore, it is essential that in establishing the full truth and institutional responsibilities for the Grenfell fire, the initial failures of the inquiries and investigations into Hillsborough are not repeated.”