THE Church of England is to provide support for its schools to help them deliver new relationship education required by the Government by next year, including teaching on LGBT relationships and families.
The new government guidance on Relationship and Sex Education for primary-age children comes into force in September 2020, although some schools are beginning it earlier.
A course in one school, Parkfield Community School, Birmingham, sparked weeks of angry protests from mainly Muslim parents at the school gate.
The Government’s counter-extremism commissioner, Sara Khan, criticised the Department for Education in a BBC Panorama investigation this week for its lack of support for the school, and for the assistant head teacher, Andrew Moffatt, who devised the school’s programme, “No Outsiders”.
A Church House spokesman said this week that it was considering how best to support Church schools in delivering the new relationships education.
This might include providing its own resources, or issuing guidance on using some of the other resources already available, a spokesman said. Any new resources would go out to schools first for consultation.
The Church has broadly welcomed the new government guidance (News, 26 April). The Church’s lead bishop for education, the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, said: “The new guidance is about promoting healthy resilient relationships set in the context of character and virtue development, with a focus on respecting others, including the beliefs and practices of people with a specific faith commitment, as well as those from the many different types of families that make up our cultural context.”
About 70 schools have so far received letters from parents protesting about the Government’s plans for relationship education, and many are threatening to withdraw their children from school.
The Government’s guidance allows parents to choose an “opt out” for their children from lessons on sex education, but not from relationship education.
The national secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, Rob Kelsall, called on politicians and faith leaders to “work with schools to ensure all of our children receive an education that equips them for life in modern Britain”.
Panorama featured an interview with Judith Nemeth, from the newly formed Values Foundation, in which she said: “There is no way that people of faith will teach it’s OK to be gay — they won’t because the Bible tells us that it isn’t OK to be gay.”
Her comments provoked strong criticism from some Christians on Twitter, with many using the hashtag #Notinmyname to distance themselves from the comments.
The interfaith adviser for the diocese of St Albans, the Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills, said that the programme’s coverage had lacked balance. She wrote on Twitter that Ms Nemeth’s comment was “simply not true. Many of all faiths and none believe differently.
“I was incensed that someone was speaking on behalf of all people of faith. She has the right to express her views — but not on behalf of all Christians or all people of faith.”