The Catholic Education Service claim that their campaigning has led to Ed Balls tabling an amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill regarding Sex and Relationships Education that could effectively enable faith schools to opt out of providing sex education based on facts rather than religious dictats. The amendment states that the following sections of the Bill “are not to be read as preventing the governing body or head teacher of a [faith] school from causing or allowing PSHE to be taught in a way that reflects the school’s religious character”:
…information presented in the course of providing PSHE should be accurate and balanced.
…PSHE should be taught in a way that is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds, and also reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives.
…PSHE should be taught in a way that endeavours to promote equality, encourages acceptance of diversity, and emphasises the importance of both rights and responsibilities.
In other words, the school’s religious convictions – which could include viewing homosexuality, sex before marriage and contraception use as sins – would be allowed to override the need to provide accurate, fair and inclusive sex education.
This is appalling (and how sad is it that the Catholic campaigners feel threatened by ‘accurate and balanced information’ and ‘equality and diversity’?). The state school system should exist to provide all children with a comprehensive education that values and respects their rights and identities and those of others and encourages free thought; it should not be making concessions to religious leaders who have their own – potentially harmful – agenda. Personally, I think religious faith should have no place in the running of state schools, but given that things are unlikely to change any time soon, the Education Secretary should at least be ensuring that children who do attend these schools do not miss out on essential parts of their education and are not fed faith-based lies about such important issues as contraception and sexual relationships.
The British Humanist Association have more information and details of how you can ask your MP to vote against the amendment, which is due to be debated in Parliament this coming Tuesday 23 February.