We are delighted to report that the government has withdrawn from the Children, Schools and Families Bill the two most controversial sections covering sex and relationships education (SRE) and home education.
The proposals would have seen SRE made a statutory part of the national curriculum for pupils in maintained schools from the age of five, with parents losing their current right to withdraw their children from SRE classes after their 15th birthday. The Bill would also have introduced a licensing scheme for home educating families alongside intrusive monitoring procedures.
However, when the government failed to secure the support of the Conservative Party for these measures with the dissolution of Parliament looming, it reluctantly dropped its plans in order to allow less controversial parts of the Bill to pass into law. If the Labour Party is re-elected at the General Election, it has pledged to re-introduce the proposals within the first session of a new parliament, while the Conservatives have indicated that they would 'address and consult on' the place of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (including SRE) within the curriculum.
Family Education Trust director, Norman Wells, told the Daily Mail: 'Parents have been increasingly sidelined and effectively told they must bring up their children by government diktat. It is time for politicians from all parties to start showing parents more respect and to recognise that the family is a private institution, not an arm of the state.'
Sunday Telegraph letter
We are grateful to those of you who wrote to MPs and peers, and worked tirelessly to defeat these anti-family proposals. Opposition to the government's home education plans resulted in by far the largest number of petitions presented to parliament on a single issue, and the large volume of correspondence received by MPs and peers was referred to in debates in both Houses. The strong opposition to the government's proposals was also demonstrated by a letter to the Sunday Telegraph signed by 640 headteachers, school governors and faith leaders (second letter down on the page).
The letter, which was co-ordinated by Family Education Trust, expressed concern at the government's attempt to impose its own ideology on children by means of statutory SRE and stressed that, 'Parents and guardians have the primary responsibility for bringing up their children in accordance with their own values and culture. They may entrust the task of formal education to a school of their choice, but the overall responsibility for the upbringing of their children remains theirs.'
In the accompanying news item, Norman Wells commented that the Children, Schools and Families Bill was 'music to the ears of those who have long campaigned for compulsory sex education to advance their agenda to break down traditional moral standards, redefine the family, promote relativism, celebrate homosexuality, and encourage sexual experimentation'. He added that it was 'time to stand up to the encroachment of an overbearing state and say enough is enough'.
Consultation on new Sex and Relationships Education Guidance
Although the battle over the Children, Schools and Families Bill has been won, the war is far from over. Regardless of the outcome of the General Election, fresh challenges will lie ahead on both sex education and home education fronts sooner or later.
But before the next parliamentary session begins, there remains one further assault on traditional family values to be addressed. We are therefore writing to encourage you to respond to the Department for Children, Schools and Families consultation on new sex and relationships education guidance. The draft guidance is far more prescriptive than the current guidance which was issued in July 2000, and it attaches far less importance to consultation with parents and the need for schools to be sensitive to parental concerns. While the document pays lip-service to showing ‘sensitivity to faith and cultural perspectives’, it includes a strong emphasis on ‘promoting equality, inclusion and acceptance of diversity’. It stresses that ‘SRE should promote awareness, respect and understanding for the wide range of practices and beliefs relating to sex and relationships within our society’ and ‘provide children and young people with information about their right to confidential advice and support on sex and relationships’.
Responses must be submitted by Monday 19 April, so time is short. Please respond if you can. You do not have to respond to each question. The attached briefing explains how to respond and suggests points you may wish to cover, but please use your own words. Do feel free to forward this message and the attached briefing to your friends and other family members who share our concerns.
Thank you for your interest and support.
Family Education Trust
19-21 High Street
Tel: 020 8894 2525
Fax: 020 8894 3535
Fax: 020 8894 3535