The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill 2021
The Bill became law in March 2021. The “Religion, Values and Ethics” element which is included in it encompasses compulsory lessons on atheism and “non-religious” views for all pupils. Therefore, at the same time as spiritual elements being included in the curriculum, they are being undermined by setting them in a context that is anti-spiritual! I wonder whether the introduction of elements which counteracted and worked against the essence of any other subject in schools would be tolerated for one minute! Here is yet another attempt to secularise further our children and to deprive them of their spiritual heritage. It is certain that Christianity will be pushed further away to the periphery by means of such an agenda.
It is the core nature of any curriculum to deal with the central experiences of what it is to be a human being. The curriculum has traditionally fulfilled that, encompassing literacy and numeracy, language and literature, science, craft and technology, the performing arts, music, history and geography, sports, physical education, and other elements. Not less important is the spiritual aspect. That surely is the whole purpose behind including “religion” in the curriculum, since it is a core experience, and touches us not only as a person that is merely flesh and blood, but because each one of us is also made up of a soul and spirit. It is part of our human experience in its deepest, more illuminating and life-changing aspects with regard to values, demeanour and conduct. Now, rather than give it its deserved place, it appears that the intention is to introduce these sublime matters within the context of negativity and cynicism. It is the stated view of humanists that their intention is to “debunk religion”. By the way, according to the 2011 census, there were 815 humanists in Wales compared with 8,259 Jedi Knights! One can but ask how on earth do we expect teachers to preserve their integrity and credulity in encompassing such matters whilst teaching this subject.
On top of this, as part of the now rebranded “Relationships and Sexuality Education” curriculum, LGBT issues will be highlighted. Indeed, the whole of the curriculum is now to be made LGBT compliant and inclusive. These changes are to be implemented in 2022. Such matters have already caused a great deal of consternation – and protests – in England where schools have for instance used often ambiguous materials to proselytise children and to confuse them entirely concerning sex and gender. There are fears that this normalises LGBT and encourages children to celebrate it. We know of the increasing anxieties involved with the whole issue of individuals being persuaded and helped to change gender. Keira Bell, now 23, won a recent case against the Tavistock Clinic for the way she was given puberty blockers in her teens, when she wasn’t old enough to consider the risks and long-term consequences. All this is like opening Pandora’s box.
Moreover, the recently passed law has overturned the right of parents to withdraw their children from the “Relationships and Sexuality Education” curriculum, a right which has always acknowledged the central role and responsibility of parents’ faith and credo in the nurturing of their children, despite the consultation process undertaken by the Senedd showing clear opposition to this issue. In fact, 62.2% of respondents opposed the changes proposed to Religious Education and as many as 86.9% opposed ending the right of parents to withdraw their children from lessons (https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2019-07/summary-of-responses-our-national-mission-a-transformational-curriculum_1.pdf ). Yet, both these matters have been included in the new Measure, a Measure passed at a time when true scrutiny surely cannot have been achieved because of the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We may well be wondering what has happened to the democratic process.
(Headteacher of a Comprehensive School in Ceredigion for nearly 16 years, and then Director of Education and Community Services for the County before retiring)