Sex and Relationships Education in publicly-funded schools
Commenting on the Government's amendment over Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) in its own Children, Schools and Families Bill, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, said:
"It seems as if the government is rather unfeasibly trying to have it both ways here. When the crunch comes, its amendment on PSHE to the Children, Schools and Families Bill is liable to subject the broad principles and contents of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to the whims of individual schools. It is hard to see how Secretary of State Ed Balls can deny this, factually.
"And while Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) quotes one example of positive practice - which would already have been covered by the unamended Bill - it is not saying explicitly that this will be followed in all religious foundation schools. Indeed, it must know that it will not. Otherwise, why introduce an amendment, under pressure for sectional interests, which far from clarifying the original intent of the Bill, actually creates a large loophole in it?"
"No-one is arguing that PSHE in publicly funded schools should not take into account cultural and religious sensibilities. The issue is whether particular narrow views should be allowed to trump all other considerations of fairness and equal treatment - and whether, for instance, pupils in Catholic schools will be taught that homosexuality is "gravely disordered" without being invited to consider different arguments and proposals, including the views of Christians and others who strongly disagree with this.
"Sex and relationships is a hotly contested ethical area. This is why it is important that pupils in schools funded by the taxpayer should be given a full, rounded, factually-based picture, rather than a dogmatic or one-sided one. It is of course the job of particular faith communities, secular groups, family units and others within civil society to address the issues from their own distinctive perspectives. But single views should not be imposed at the expense of others within the publicly-funded school system, which has a responsibility to ensure a free flow of information, debate, dialogue and understanding."
Ekklesia has asked the Secretary of State why he thinks it is that homophobic bullying is 10 per cent higher in faith schools, according to Stonewall research, and what he intends to do about this.
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