More than 550,000 students took GCSE history this summer, says Michael Davies, a history teacher at Lancaster Royal Grammar, a selective state boys' school in Lancashire. "Of those, only 2,200 had studied Israel and Palestine. In comparison, 70,000 had studied the history of the American West."
At Abrar Academy, a private Muslim boys' school based in a former Methodist church in Preston, this year's GCSE cohort did not take the Israel/Palestine option. Like so many schools of all dominations, they studied the first world war instead.
It's not that the boys aren't interested, says Suhayl Hafiz, curriculum manager, during the eerily quiet lunch break: "Palestine is the third holiest site in Islam, and the conflict is something all the boys have heard about, whether at the mosque or at home or in school."