Christian coalition calls for sex ed curriculum to be delayed

(Photo: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

The former Bishop of Rochester has joined calls for implementation of the new Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum to be delayed as Covid continues to cause chaos in schools. 

The call comes in a letter written by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali to education secretary Gavin Williamson on behalf of the Christian Coalition for Education (CCFE). 

RSE became compulsory last September but schools were given until this summer to implement it because of Covid-19. 

Guidance from the Government says that schools must consult parents over the controversial curriculum, but the letter from Nazir-Ali warns that the pandemic is putting these consultations at risk. 

He argues that it would be "confusing" for teachers, parents and children to begin the RSE curriculum at a time when the education system is still reeling from the pressures of the pandemic. 

The letter notes that the content of RSE lessons has already triggered widespread protests outside schools, as well as "lawsuits and a huge rise in home-schooling in certain areas and communities". 

"To require implementation by the summer term would place parents, pupils and schools under unconscionable strain," the bishop writes. 

The letter goes on to warn that schools need time to adjust to guidance issued by the Government last September. 

That guidance tells schools that they "should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear."

Schools are also told not to work with external agencies or organisations that produce resources suggesting to children that they may have been born in the wrong body.

The CCFE argues that the departure from previous guidance is so significant that "schools need time to assess and consult with parents fully".

Nazir-Ali said: "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." 

Steve Beegoo, Christian Concern's Head of Education, who is supporting the letter added: "Many parents have been totally left in the dark about what their school deems appropriate to teach their children about sexual activity, LGBT+, transgender ideology or pornography.

"Due to the pressures on schools during the pandemic, many, if not the majority of schools have had no capacity to fully disclose their RSHE curriculum or properly consult with the parents on this highly controversial area.

"It is deeply disturbing that the Department for Education is yet to announce any flexibility for schools to fulfil their legal duties, opening up the possibility of many more parental complaints which is the last thing schools need."