Head of Education, Steve Beegoo, comments on the collapse of the Schools’ Bill, advising parents on next steps and how to pray.
It has finally been announced that the government’s highly problematic Schools’ Bill has been shelved.
This wide-ranging bill was roundly criticised and many are relieved at its collapse. Christians were especially concerned on a number of fronts, yet these concerns have not abated as the new Education secretary Gillian Keegan has explained that new bills will be proposed when the legislative timetable allows.
In addition, the guidance on trans issues for schools, which the Department for Education promised to be made available for consultation before Christmas, has also been postponed until next year. In the wake of hundreds of cases being brought against the NHS for causing harm by affirming children in their gender dysphoria, schools have been warned by medical, legal and political leaders that affirmation in schools is an unsafe and highly significant act. The guidance should make it clear that such affirmation by teachers is to be avoided.
The Humanists are especially disappointed by the collapse of the bill. The Schools’ Bill would have required all schools to become academies, and all academies to become part of large Multi Academy Trusts (MAT), which may or may not have held Christian values. State schools with a Christian heritage could have been overseen by governors and trustees within such MATs who have no love for Jesus Christ. Free from the laws on Religious Education and collective worship that apply to local authority schools, the schools in these trusts could have left behind for good the Christian foundations and teachings on which they were built. It has already been shown that 50% of Academy schools without a religious character do not meet their legal or contractual requirements for RE. Will these dangers persist in future legislation?
The Secretary of State and the Department for Education would have received sweeping new powers from the bill. These powers would have included the ability to intervene in MAT decision making processes, further undermining local governance, and local determination of staff and especially parents.
When the White Paper was first published, the education, ecclesiastical, and charity team at the solicitors Lee Bolton Monier-Williams LLP advised their clients, which include dioceses: “Beneath the surface of this paper lurks the most fundamental change in the structure of school provision in England since the Education Act 1902.”
The powers being given to the Secretary of State exemplify this, and commentators are using the adjective ‘totalitarian’ more and more to describe them. Ofsted are also consistently working to gain more powers through various bills.
One aspect of the bill which politicians seem determined not to drop is the registration of homes. This registration and potential imprisonment of those who do not want their children educated in local schools was proposed in this bill. The concern remains that dangers to the freedoms to learn at home about Jesus Christ are still very much present, as the home educating community is well aware. The freedom for all of us to remove our children from state indoctrination without local authority inspectors scrutinising our thinking and our homes is still a major threat.
Social transitioning, a process whereby the people around a gender dysphoric child affirm them in their new transgender name with the related pronouns, has been found to be disastrous. With the results from the case of the Rowes, alongside the numerous court cases now under way, the publication of and then public consultation of new guidance for schools is of great importance for the safeguarding of our children from harmful affirmation. We will be encouraging supporters to engage with this consultation when the guidance comes out in 2023.
As we come to the end of an eventful year, parliamentary processes regarding the education of our sons and daughters seem to have entered a period of reflection. May we pray for our legislators that wise decisions are made regarding our schools, that the freedoms to educate about the Lord Jesus Christ and his truth will not be damaged and that his people will speak up for those who are most vulnerable to harm from transgender ideology.