OVER 60 parents and teachers from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Black-led Churches, together with Muslims gathered in Oxford on Saturday 25 January to consider the implications of the RSE Regulations and Guidance that will come into force in September.
They were advised by a team of speakers representing the Abrahamic faiths that, while what schools are required to teach is largely uncontroversial, the statutory guidance provides an open door for the strong influence of ideologies at odds with conservative values on sex, marriage and family.
Under the legislation parents have mandated rights to see the school’s policy on RSE and the material that would be taught to their children.
The delegates were told that parents should check this when considering which school their child might attend. For children already at a school, a concerned parent should approach the head teacher with a companion and with good intent to ‘discuss the problem calmly’. The tenor of the head teacher’s response would reveal whether the school is open to sensible compromise, it was said. If necessary, a formal complaint — which has to be logged — can be entered. Parents should consider removing their child from the class if needed and, only as a last resort, consider moving them to another school.
Speakers said that in a number of cases it could be shown from the materials already being used that RSE is not safeguarding children but providing ideological grooming, omitting key facts about, for example, dangers to health, speakers said. Among the questionable cited by speakers was [i] No outsiders, Educate and Celebrate, All about Me and Respect Yourself. Delegates were told that schools are incentivised by the government for early adoption of these curricula, whose publishers are gaining a huge commercial benefit.
Examples of appropriate material were on display at the Oxford conference, such as that produced by Alive to the World, Lovewise, Fertile Heart and other sources, that match the religious background of pupils as required by the law. Cases were cited where inappropriate material had been dropped because of parental intervention.
Speakers said that some schools had pleaded the Equality Act in their defence. This Act prohibits ‘any and all’ discrimination against what are termed protected characteristics, one of which is faith. Delegates were told that it thus affirms the right of parents to insist that all teaching aligns with, and respects, their faith and, if a contrary position is taken by the school or teacher, to remove their children from what is seen as inappropriate teaching.
The conference noted with concern that, unlike the medical profession which allowed doctors and nurses not to be involved in abortions, there was as yet no conscience clause for teachers who do not want to teach children contrary to their or the children’s familial beliefs.
Amir Ahmed of Birmingham Parent Power spoke for his community where 100 per cent of the children in the local schools were from a faith-based community that does not accept same-sex relations Some 600 of the 740 pupils at Parkfield School had taken part in a day-long boycott of the school over such teaching. This, he said, was not a matter of religious belief, ‘but of truth’ and community opposition to politically backed ideologues seeking to impose liberal ideas not in the best interests of children, and contrary to their faith.
He claimed that many in the community in and around Birmingham were afraid that if they objected they would lose their jobs.
Future discussions on these matters are planned in a Parliamentary briefing in February, with the Church of England Board of Education, and with chairs of School Governing Bodies and Headteachers.
Canon Dr Chris Sugden
Article reproduced with kind permission of the Church of England Newspaper