A coalition of Christian educators and bodies has urged the Secretary of State for Education to postpone this year’s planned summer implementation of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE).
Written by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, on behalf of the constituent bodies of the Christian Coalition For Education (CCFE), the letter states that amidst the continued chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic, parents have not been properly consulted on the new curriculum, which is required by law.
The letter states therefore that ‘if schools are to have any chance of truly “taking their parents with them” in this, there cannot be any shadow of doubt the mandatory process has been completed properly.’
Furthermore, the signatories, which include Christian leaders from schools, universities, and educational bodies from across the UK, state that if the Department for Education (DfE) were to go ahead as planned it would be ‘bizarre’ and ‘confusing’ for children, parents and teachers in an educational system already reeling under the current pressures.
In May 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) had announced that while the new regulations making RSE compulsory would still take effect from September 2020, schools would be able to delay introducing it to their pupils until Summer term 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19.
The letter states that RSE, which could involve the teaching of sexualised themes to children as young as four, has already ‘given rise to school protests, lawsuits and a huge rise in home-schooling in certain areas and communities’, and that ‘to require implementation by the summer term would place parents, pupils and schools under unconscionable strain.’
Addressing the challenges of a summer implementation on schools, the group presents that RSE’s: ‘forced arrival in the summer term will exhaust and dismay many throughout the teaching profession and lead it to being dismissed at a time when the welfare, well-being, mental health and managing exam pressures on students are more pressing.’
The group also cite new guidance, issued by the DfE on 24 September 2020, which aimed to help school leaders implement the new statutory RSE curriculum.
The guidance presented a sharp departure from the DfE’s previous messaging about the programme, which had been significantly influenced by special interest lobbying groups.
However, the September 2020 guidance stated that schools ‘should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear.’
Plus, the guidance made it clear that schools ‘should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material’ or suggest to children that they may have been born in the wrong body.
The group argue that this message represents such a departure from previous guidance that ‘schools need time to assess and consult with parents fully’, due to the number of political and partisan groups continually seeking to influence schools across the country on this issue.
Therefore, the group ‘strongly urge’ Gavin Williamson, the current Secretary of State for Education, to delay the implementation of the programme again until September 2021.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said: “Parents have the right to expect that their children will be taught according to their religious and philosophical beliefs. The State and schools are strictly ancillary to parental responsibility for the upbringing of their children and both must listen carefully to what parents are saying if the world of education is to be one of mutual respect and harmony”.
Steve Beegoo, Christian Concern’s Head of Education, said: “Many parents have been totally left in the dark about what their school deems appropriate to teach their children about sexual activity, LGBT+, transgender ideology or pornography.
“Due to the pressures on schools during the pandemic, many, if not the majority of schools have had no capacity to fully disclose their RSHE curriculum or properly consult with the parents on this highly controversial area. It is deeply disturbing that the Department for Education is yet to announce any flexibility for schools to fulfil their legal duties, opening up the possibility of many more parental complaints which is the last thing schools need.”