Christian coalition challenges headteachers on RSE responsibilities

16 April 2021

This month, in the face of rising concerns from parents, the Christian Coalition for Education (CCFE), supported by Christian Concern, has taken extensive measures to challenge and advise headteachers across the country of their responsibilities regarding Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE). Separate letters have been sent to primary and secondary headteachers.

With the RSE programmes set to be introduced from this summer term, many schools have not fully consulted their parents and community about the content they are planning to deliver. The best practice of creating meaningful opportunities for discussion with parents and unguarded disclosure of curriculum content is often being displaced by minimal communication, in contravention of government guidance.

Through these letters, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who chairs the coalition, has reminded headteachers of their responsibilities in regards to RSHE. They are reminded that they must uphold the law in the requirement that children should be taught in accordance with the religious or philosophical beliefs of their parents and that parents should have the right to withdraw their children from teaching that does not do this.

In the letter, the coalition reminds all schools that in, “the teaching of RSE the DfE Guidance of Sept 24th 2020, prohibits the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school,” and that guidance states, “You should exercise extreme caution when working with external agencies.

The coalition believes that many schools are not fully consulting with their parent bodies as to the policy and content of their curriculum. Steve Beegoo, Head of Education at Christian Concern, explained, “we are having more and more enquiries from parents regarding their disturbance of the suspected or actual content being delivered to children. Graphic depictions and discussions of sexual acts and confusing messages about gender are becoming a widespread problem. This kind of curriculum has often been influenced by organisations such as Stonewall, Educate and Celebrate, Mermaids or It Happens.”

Importantly, the letter reminds headteachers that the guidance states:

Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such materials. Teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing.

Cases pending against schools where such consultation has not occurred, include the case of Izzy Montague vs. Heaver’s Farm School, where children were required to engage in a Pride march at school as part of the curriculum. The coalition’s letter to primary headteachers explains,

We understand some parent groups and individuals are currently taking primary schools to court regarding lack of consultation and disturbance about the RSE curriculum or the holding of ‘diversity’ events without prior consultation with parents and other stake-holders.”

Since the communications to schools, it is hoped that many have become more cognisant of their duties to consult fully before they introduce controversial content this summer. However, many schools and headteachers have been ill-advised or are ideologically driven, resulting in content which will disturb parents. If you are a parent, the time to raise your voice to the school on this issue is now.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who chairs the coalition, said, “It is heartening to hear that so many schools, and also parents, are waking up to the need for full engagement with what is actually required by the legislation around RSHE. I very much hope headteachers up and down the country will fully understand some of the safeguarding and religious liberty concerns which have arisen since the introduction of the subject.”

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