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The Government Responsible?

In loco Rei Republicae: The government, not parents, are primarily responsible for the moral formation of children, insists Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education.

Damian Hinds MP, Secretary of State for Education (in England) makes it crystal clear, in his letter (9th April 2019) to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), that, in his view, the government, not parents, are responsible for the moral formation of children, not least in matters relating to relationships education to be made compulsory in schools in September 2020 (Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools).

When I was a teacher in the early 70s, my colleagues and I understood very clearly that we acted in loco parentis [in the place of a parent]. According to Damian Hinds, this is no longer the case. Head teachers, firmly guided by government policy, and with the full force of the law, are to lead in the formation of children on the most fundamental moral issues – and parents will be relegated to second place.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) states, Article 26, section 3, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”.

Nodding in the direction of the UNDHR, Mr Hinds’ letter to the NAHT refers to parents as the “primary educators” of their children. However, it quickly becomes overwhelmingly clear that this reference is PR of the worst kind. It’s a lie.

It’s a lie because the one means through which parents can exercise their role as the “primary educators” of their children – to withdraw them from Relationships Education or Relationships and Sex Education classes – is either being completely denied to them (at primary school) or partly denied at secondary school where parents can “request” that their child be withdrawn from sex education lessons only, and with the final decision remaining firmly with the head teacher.

And it’s a lie as the following extract from Mr Hinds’ letter makes perfectly clear:

“Parents and carers are the primary educators of their children, and it is right that they are involved in developing how schools deliver relationships education. Key to an effective consultation is space and time for parents to input, ask questions and share concerns, and for the school to decide the way forward. What is taught, and how, is ultimately a decision for the school.

With or without my emphases in bold, above, the meaning of Damian Hinds’ words is as plain as a pikestaff: It’s the government’s job, according to Damian Hinds, to decide the policy which dictates the formation for children on the most fundamental moral and ethical issues.
In his letter Mr Hinds clearly explains how the Government’s policy will succeed in enforcing its policy in schools [my emphases added]:

  • “In 2014, we introduced a requirement for all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
  • “In addition, schools are required to comply with relevant requirements of the Equality Act 2010 … They must comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty, which means, in making decisions, having due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act, and to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it.”
  • “Our policies on fundamental British values and relationships education, as well as the Public Sector Equalities Duty, complement and build on one another.”

The Government’s policies, to which Mr Hinds refers, are set out in its latest Guidance and Regulations regarding the proposed content and delivery of compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in schools. These policies include encouraging secondary school children to “explore” their developing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. They include dangerous and immoral lifestyle choices being presented as equally valid as marriage. And they include abortion being presented simply as one of the available options during pregnancy and pupils being signposted to contraceptive and abortion services, without any parental knowledge or consent.
In his letter Damian Hinds stresses “his strong belief in school autonomy” and “allowing head teachers’ discretion” which responsible parents will rightly seize on in order to engage robustly with schools on what their children are being taught. The head teacher’s “discretion” provides a small opening for parents whose children attend schools where head teachers are unhappy themselves about the government’s policies. But the head teacher’s “discretion” is very much a double-edged sword, with head teachers allowed to introduce an LGBT agenda into the school if they are so minded. In such cases, parents’ wishes would be cast aside as head teachers have the full backing of the law to veto the outcome of any consultation with parents.

“In modern diverse Britain”, to coin a phrase in his letter, it is very clear that parents are to raise their children in loco Rei Republicae. Sir Edward Leigh rightly warned, in 2017, in the House of Commons that parents would view these new compulsory school subjects as “a State take-over bid for parenting”

Mr Hinds has gone far too far and he will continue to be strongly resisted by parents throughout England.

John Smeaton
Director, SPUC

This article was first posted on The Blog of John Smeaton, Director of SPUC

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