A coalition of Christian educators and bodies has called on the government to delay its introduction of a new form of teaching around sex and relationships education (RSE).
A letter written by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, to the Secretary of State for Education, on behalf of the constituent bodies of the Christian Coalition For Education (CCFE), 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.
In May 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) 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.
Steve Beegoo, Christian Concern's Head of Education and a former headteacher, told Premier that it is too much to expect schools to be able to properly consult with parents this term.
"The guidance is quite clear that it's a full consultation that's required of schools. And I just believe that schools just have not had the opportunity to do it. The government really wants those schools to do it. The schools themselves have not had the capacity to be able to do that fully and properly. And certainly since their second lockdown again. The point is that it was supposed to have come in September 2020. But the government very rightly recognised that the schools hadn't had the opportunity to properly consult in this way. And they said, 'Okay, we'll do it in the summer term.' Well, the summer term is nearly upon us. And we've just had the second lockdown and schools are reeling from all the processes that they've got to get involved in with reopening safely, testing children and become social services and medical services at the same time.
"So to expect them to be able to take on the proper consultation for relationship sex education, ready for the summer term, is just too much to expect from them."
He added that there are a number of areas causing concern among parents:
"There's all sorts of aspects of it that the parents have become concerned about, particularly some of the transgender ideology, which seems to have been promoted in many schools. Some of the LGBT content and the age-appropriateness of that, that's been really concerning some parents. In some secondary schools, we've had some horror stories of children who've been engaging in remote learning programs where the RSE has been delivering, they've been encouraged to do research on pornography. And so you've got 11-year-old children researching these kinds of topics on the internet.
"I really encourage every parent, every church member to be praying for us as parents, as Christian communities to have wisdom in this area to know how to guide our children in what is an increasingly quickly changing environment around us. We need the wisdom of God to know how to communicate biblical truths, Christian truths to our children in a way that they they will be able to understand and still be able to be loving and respectful to all sorts of people of all sorts of backgrounds."
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said in a statement: "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."
The group 'strongly urges' Gavin Williamson, the current Secretary of State for Education, to delay the implementation of the programme again until September 2021.