CHILDREN as young as nine are being taught about human rights and global issues in York - sparking claims they are being "brainwashed" by political correctness.

A new scheme has started in York primary schools this week to teach pupils global citizenship, anti-discrimination and human rights - topics some argue can be highly political and should not be taught to such young children.

In total 12 city primary schools in York will work with the first Global Dimension Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) in the region and have the opportunity to learn about global issues.

Believed to be the first of her kind in Yorkshire and possibly the country, Nicola Betts, a Global Dimension Advanced Skills Teacher, will be entering classrooms and seeing hundreds of children.

The new initiative has led to claims by York-based parent lobbying group the Campaign For Real Education, that "political correctness" and other such weighty issues are too complicated for primary school youngsters.

Chairman Nick Seaton said: "I would have thought that sort of teaching can be little more than brainwashing at best, a lot of these things are so multi-faceted and people have different ideas about them. I'm afraid it's another move by the Government and the politicians to use education as a tool to change society instead of concentrating on having an education system to provide individuals with the foundations for a successful life."

York Conservative councillor Ian Gillies said: "This is ridiculous. Children need to know the basics of education first before they start making judgements and start being influenced by people with an agenda."

But the move has won grass-roots support from the schools where Mrs Betts is working. At St Paul's RC in Holgate, head teacher Susan Mistry, said Mrs Betts is working with the Year 5 pupils on a Fair Trade tuck shop and also teaching about art and music from around the world.

Mrs Mistry said: "It's not a case of brain-washing or indoctrination it's about enhancing the children's learning. That way children grow up with a good understanding of how to treat people and not to exploit people and other cultures."

The scheme is run in partnership between the Centre for Global Education based at York St John University with the Yorkshire & Humber Global Schools Association (YHGSA) and the City of York Local Authority.

Supported by the Centre For Global Education which is funded by the YHGSA, Nicola will work to raise awareness of global issues in schools and colleges through the curriculum. Mrs Betts said: "My role as a global dimension AST involves embedding the message that we are all responsible human beings. I am very excited to start this role and to be given the opportunity to develop new relationships with staff and pupils built around the global dimension and exploring new ways to help children recognise that the choices we make affect both people locally and also globally."

Mrs Betts has already begun her lessons at St Paul's CE Primary School, Holgate and Lord Deramore's Primary School, Heslington. The names of the other nine primary schools have yet to be confirmed.