England’s new Relationships and Sex education regime one year on
29 September 2021
By Dr Tom Rogers
In my previous two articles which have appeared in Calx Mariae (in no 4 and no 10), I detailed the way in which Church leaders in England and Wales had in recent years consistently betrayed Catholic parents and their children and, indeed, all the children of our nation, through their public support for the pro-LGBT anti-life Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) regime which has now been imposed in all schools in England.
This came about by way of the Children and Social Work Act (2017), which resulted in official RSE Regulations (2019) and Statutory Guidance (2019) which, amongst other serious problems, undermine and, for the most part, entirely remove the parental right of withdrawal from RSE lessons; impose secular liberal views of sex and relationships as options to be respected; force schools to integrate into their programmes LGBT lifestyles as a positive equivalence to real marriage, and serve to facilitate underage sex by signposting children to confidential contraception and abortion services.
I explained how, despite reassurances from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England & Wales (CBCEW), and their agency the Catholic Education Service (CES), that Catholic schools can and do continue to teach RSE perfectly in line with Church teaching (and leaving aside the fate of the 90 per cent of children in England and Wales not attending Catholic schools), the evidence shows a very different picture. In fact, publications from the CES, endorsed by the Bishops, reveal a Church establishment that has very much embraced the LGBT agenda and wants children in Catholic schools to be educated according to this anti-Christian ideology.
The obligation on all primary schools in England to deliver mandatory Relationships and Health Education, and for all secondary schools in England to deliver mandatory Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) came into force in September 2020 (delayed from the original set date of September 2019). As we are one year on from the start of this new regime (albeit after various reprieves due to the COVID restrictions), now is a timely point to examine what exactly the experience of parents in practice has so far been, as well as what problems are likely to develop in the near future, and what parents can still do at this stage to mobilise and take action in defence of their children. We will also look at how church leaders have responded to the growing concerns of Catholic parents and the faithful, and how programmes they have endorsed are being used in Catholic schools to undermine and distort their children’s understanding of Christian truth, particularly in the area of homosexuality. With the stubborn refusal of most in the Church hierarchy even to acknowledge that there is any kind of problem, Catholic parents must turn to Christ in faith like never before and trust in His willingness to deliver them from what may seem like an impossible situation.
To what extent are parents being consulted?
With many schools failing to undertake their required parental consultations prior to the delivery of RSHE in September 2020, mostly using COVID restrictions as a justification, supporters of SPUC and other pro-family organisations successfully lobbied the Government to delay full implementation of the new subjects until meaningful consultations could take place. Schools were granted flexibility to delay until April 2021, and then, when various COVID restrictions continued, until September 2021. Where schools, however, did opt to start delivery earlier in the 2020/21 academic year then those subjects were indeed mandatory, and many parents for the first time felt the effect of being denied their natural rights as the primary educators of their children. Consequently, the numbers approaching parental support and advocacy groups like Safe at School and Parent Power have been steadily increasing.
Most of the anticipated problems of the new regime have become a reality. Firstly, it was always very obvious to us that, without an effective right of withdrawal from RSHE, the value of parental consultations would be at best questionable. Parents are unable to withdraw their children from Relationships or Health Education because, apparently, these subjects “support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe”. Parents are able to withdraw their children from officially undefined “sex education” at primary school (though, according to the Statutory RSHE Guidance, it is “good practice” that this should be following a meeting with the head teacher), but they are only able to “request” withdrawal from the also officially undefined “sex education” parts of RSHE at secondary school. The final decision rests with the head teacher. When the child reaches the age of either 14 or 15 (“up to and until three terms before the child turns 16”) then the child is able to overrule both parents and head teacher and opt into “sex education” if they so wish. Although bizarrely they are not judged correspondingly mature and autonomous enough to opt themselves out.
Even if a school was extremely conscientious about parental rights then practical reason suggests that a “one size fits all” model of RSHE in the classroom could not possibly cater for the different views of so many different parents about what should be taught to their children about sex and relationships — even within a faith school. The Department for Education (DfE) knew full well how unworkable for schools and unsatisfactory for parents such a process of consultation would be (it was certainly pointed out to them enough times during the public consultation process), which is why they could pretend to respect the role of the parent as “primary educator” whilst simultaneously taking away the only thing that truly makes that concept meaningful — the right of withdrawal. Indeed the DfE was eager to confirm in further guidance that “schools ultimately make the final decisions and engagement does not amount to a parental veto”. With the Government affirming that, in the end, parents will effectively have to “like it or lump it”, then naturally many schools would not feel the need or incentive to be as responsive to parents’ concerns as they would be if the bargaining chip of “veto” or withdrawal was available to them.
Powers of influence available to parents
Despite the very real problems, there are also certain positive aspects of both the law and the Statutory Guidance that parents can use to their advantage in protecting their children. One of the first things we ask parents when they come to us at Safe at School for help is: has the school undertaken a parental consultation over its RSHE policy — and, if so, how was that undertaken and when? The legal requirement to hold a parental consultation over the school’s policy is very clear and quite strong in parents’ favour. The RSHE Regulations 2019 (which have the status of law, since they were enacted in Parliament by Statutory Instrument), state that either the “governing body” (if it is a “maintained”, i.e. state funded, school) or the “proprietor” (in the case of an “independent”, i.e. privately funded, school) “must consult parents of registered pupils at the school before making or revising” the schools’ RSHE policy, which they are also responsible for making publicly available on the website or, for anyone on request, a copy in print [my emphasis]. “Consultation”, by its very nature, implies a two-way process whereby the “consulted”party is expected to have at least some degree of influence over the outcome of the discussion or process, if not even be required to provide their consent for a proposed course of action. We would not say we were going to “consult” someone, for instance, if we were simply going to tell them what we had already decided to do anyway. No wonder therefore that the Government has since instead been speaking in terms of “parental engagement” — a much vaguer term, even though that is not what the letter of the law states.
In our experience schools have tended to be extremely sloppy in their understanding and following of the law in this area — and Catholic schools have been amongst the worst offenders. A common tendency for schools is to go ahead in making an RSHE policy without the slightest recourse to parents’ views, and then to “engage” with parents — often in the form of an invitation to “email us any feedback you have” — only on the RSHE programme or resource package they have decided to adopt or already bought in (e.g. the Jigsaw or Ten Ten programme). Parents, if they are lucky, might be invited to a Zoom meeting, often at an inconvenient time, where they have a chance to learn more about what the school has already decided to do and to ask a few futile questions. Parents who have expended time and energy responding with concerned and thoughtful feedback are frequently informed, in effect, that “we discussed all the feedback received at our recent governors’ meeting, considered it very carefully — and then decided to do what we had already decided to do anyway”.
The first challenge parents can make in such cases is that, by law, schools must “consult” (not just “engage”) on the RSHE policy, which should precede any chosen programme of resources because it sets out the principles and values on which that content is based, as well as when and how that content is delivered. According to the Statutory Guidance, the RSHE policy, following consultation with parents, should, for instance, define what is included in “Relationships Education” as distinct from “Sex Education”, and should “set out the subject content, how it is taught and who is responsible for teaching it”; it should “describe how the subject is monitored and evaluated”, and also include information on why parents can or cannot withdraw their children from the various elements. The important point of principle is that parents, according to both the law and the Statutory Guidance, are supposed to be “consulted” (i.e. have meaningful input) on deciding all of these matters — including what they should be able to withdraw or “request” withdrawal from (what will be “relationships education” as opposed to “sex education”).
Catholic Schools and Ten Ten’s “Living Life to the Full”
In the case of Catholic schools, we commonly find that they rarely offer any meaningful opportunity to consult on the actual policy — typically they will copy and paste the CES model RSE curriculum (possibly with a few minor additions), and then offer a cursory parental “survey” on the pre-decided programme of resources, which at the moment is most often Ten Ten’s “Living Life to the Full” — the Catholic Church in England and Wales’s flagship RSHE programme which, problematically, has involved a teacher-training partnership with both the CES and the DfE. Parents at Catholic schools are often informed, when they do raise concerns about the lack of meaningful consultation, that they“should be reassured that the RSHE programme being used is the one endorsed by the Diocese and the Bishops and is taught fully in line with Catholic teaching”. In effect the parents are being told that their views are not valid because their diocese or the Bishops have already decided what is being taught — even when the parent is unhappy with the proposed material because they consider it to be actually not in line with Catholic teaching. According to the law, however, the responsibility for the “making or amending” of the RSHE policy, as we have seen, is not with the dioceses or even the Bishops, but rather the school’s governing body (or “proprietor” in the case of an independent school) in consultation with parents.
In the case of the many Catholic schools who have adopted Ten Ten, parents will usually find themselves, for the purposes of “consultation”, sent a link to an “online parental portal” and “consultation tool” in order to provide their feedback. Anticipating, or even promoting, a cursory response the short parental survey is designed to take a mere “4 mins” to complete and, although there is space for some free-text feedback, it is mostly made up of multiple choice response questions that appear designed both to convince the parent that a) this really is an authentically Catholic course for their children and b) their rights and role as the primary educator of their children is being highly valued and respected. For example, the parent is asked presumptuously to agree or disagree (including “strongly”) with the statement that “I am comfortable with the Catholic ethos of the programme”; whereas a more useful and appropriate statement would have been: “I am confident that the programme upholds and promotes authentic Catholic teaching”.
In terms of the programme itself,I can comment only on what is actually made available to parents for “consultation” purposes in their online portal. Firstly, this is not the complete set of resources that will actually be used in the classroom, but rather an overview, with example previews, of the programme specially selected for parents. There are many presentations and hours of video content that teachers may use in the classroom, but which parents will never get to see — they are expected to take what is not presented to them on trust. Parents have requested full access to the teachers’ suite of content, only to be informed by their children’s schools that Ten Ten will not allow them to do this due to “copyright” or “licensing” reasons. When parents insist on seeing everything their children will see, the best that is offered to them is an invitation to come and view the resources on the school premises under supervision of a member of staff. This is clearly an obstacle as not all concerned parents are able or willing to come into the school and sit for hours in front of one of their computers, pouring over hours of content with an impatient teacher hovering over them. This is not, however, a problem unique to the use of the Ten Ten programme, but is, parents are finding, common with most other such programmes. For example, Jigsaw, one of the most popular RSHE/PSHE programmes used by schools, also notoriously prohibits schools, via its licensing agreement, from allowing parents viewing access to the teacher’s resources. Unfortunately the Statutory RSHE Guidance (2019) stipulates only that schools should “provide examples of the resources that they plan to use” [my emphasis] and so “examples” are all that most parents are provided with.
However, in the case of Ten Ten’s “Living Life to the Full”, even what is being readily presented to parents is enough to raise alarm bells for those concerned about their children receiving RSHE lessons in line with their Christian faith. The foundational problem is that “Living Life to the Full”, according to the online introduction for parents, is “based on and rooted in the CES model RSE programme”, and so purports to provide both a “Christian perspective” and a “balanced view” of other perspectives at the same time. In line with the Bishops’ current approach generally towards RSHE in Catholic schools, they are, in effect, trying to serve two masters — God and the State, though the Catholic education system at the moment appears more fearfully concerned with appeasing the authority of the latter.
For the preview two young Ten Ten presenters, male and female, take parents on a brief tour, with examples, of what their children will learn in each module. For instance, in a session on “Abortion and Pregnancy”, Year 10 pupils (aged 15-16 in secondary school) are encouraged to be “open minded” on abortion. The session features an overview of how abortions are performed, and both positive and negative experiences of abortion are shared so there is “balance”. Dr Calum Miller then makes a range of important points about the “myths” regarding abortion and here, as overall, coverage is much more weighted towards the pro-life side of the debate. However, pupils would not necessarily be left with an idea of the grave sinfulness of abortion according to Church teaching. A Year 9 session (for ages 13-14), “through practical knowledge and Church teaching, equips pupils to be in control of their choices regarding ‘Fertility and Contraception’”. Pupils are introduced in a relatively positive way to the Church’s teaching on the meaning of the sexual act — for the purposes of “bonding” and “opening themselves up to the possibility of creating new life”. Pupils, however, then learn all about using the different methods of artificial contraception, including their pros and cons in terms of efficacy and ease of use, via an interview with a doctor or sexual health worker, without any reference whatsoever to the “intrinsic evil”, according to the Church, of such practices. “Emergency contraception” is explained as being “taken after sex with the aim of preventing pregnancy from occurring”, wrongly and without mention that one of the intended mechanisms of the Morning After Pill is abortifacient (“pregnancy” being implicitly defined here, without explanation, as beginning with implantation). The option of using NFP within marriage is discussed here in a very positive way but, again, pupils are left with the notion that, although this may be the ideal, it would not be the end of the world to fall back on any of these other methods, including in a relationship outside of marriage. And fundamentally, there is no instruction on God’s positive command for married life, that is to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28; 9:7). Similarly, another Year 9 session on “Marriage” explores the “different types of committed relationships”, including co-habitation, civil partnerships and same-sex marriage, and although “Sacramental marriage between two Christians” is certainly the most comprehensively covered and positively endorsed option on offer, with some very good encouraging content; again, the “positive-only” message has the potential to leave pupils thinking of it as an “ideal”, rather than the only place for sexual relations acceptable to God.
The sessions in which LGBT issues are introduced and discussed are the most concerning. A Year 8 (ages 12-13) session on “Appreciating Difference” looks at “the huge, and often negative, impact that gender stereotypes have had on our culture […] such as that a woman’s place in the home [cue pictures of 1950s housewives] or that men are more natural leaders” [showing Hillary Clinton in debate with Donald Trump], and how “it’s really important that we challenge gender stereotypes”. After acknowledging that there actually are certain natural biological differences between men and women, our presenters move on “to talk about the ‘T’ in LGBT”. Pupils learn that “transgender” people have a different “gender identity” to their biological sex and that “some transgender people opt for medical intervention to transition from one sex to another”, and when they have “transitioned” their “biological sex” they are “known as transsexual”. The pair then passionately inform us how “protection of LGBT people is enshrined in law through the Equality Act of 2010” and how “transgender people are protected from discrimination”, before misinforming parents and students about how “schools have a legal responsibility to provide equal opportunities for all pupils who identify as transgender”, which apparently “means adjustments such as change of uniform, or name, or pronoun”. Pupils are then introduced to the “different perspectives that are held around this topic of gender identity”, which does include the Church’s positive teaching that “biological sex is fundamental to our identity” and “part of the gift given to us by God”. However, pupils are consequently overall left with a series of mixed messages on the topic to negotiate, with perhaps the most powerful one being that they best obey what is (mis-) presented as the law of the land, through an overtly kind and accommodating acceptance of anyone’s chosen “gender identity”.
Most of these sessions at least take some time, if imperfectly, to present positively the option of being faithful to Christ and authentic Church teaching. However, another Year 8 lesson, “Wider World”, concerned with “discrimination”, employs every tired LGBT propaganda tool in the book to cosh children over the head with the unbiblical principle that any negative view of homosexuality, or of unrepentant practising homosexuals, is profoundly wrong and, it is implied, sinful. In this session “pupils learn that we are called to love and respect one another as children of God with value and dignity that far surpasses our culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, choices and attitudes”. The “Nine Legally Protected Characteristics” are again brought in with great moral gravity as if they had been handed down by God on Mount Sinai. “Choosing not to smile at someone because […] of who they’re holding hands with” is presented as a “seed of prejudice” which can lead to discrimination and ultimately, it is implied (by way of the session’s opening example), to a repeat of the Nazi holocaust. They explain that they are focusing on “homophobic bullying” because apparently “it is rife across the UK and in schools too”. Parents are informed that “pupils then hear the real-life story of Nick from Ukraine where same-sex civil partnership is illegal, and he and his boyfriend were even turned away from renting an apartment because of their sexuality”. So Catholics therefore, it may seem, have a duty to at least support same-sex civil partnerships and could knowingly facilitate acts of sodomy. There are then a series of blithely presented straw-men statements caricaturing some of the perceived myths about Catholic teaching: “Doesn’t the Catholic Church HATE GAYS? Don’t Catholics think it’s a SIN to be gay? Isn’t the Church against same-sex people LOVING each other?”. The “Answers”, of course, are “NO! NO! and NO!”. “These are good questions though,” they explain, but they don’t have time to go into what exactly they are going to teach our children in response to them here. There is, of course, absolutely no reference at all in this presentation to the negative consequences, or to the Church’s teaching on the sinfulness, of homosexual acts, so most pupils would be left impressed with the idea that we should only ever regard anything to do with “LGBT” in an uncritically positive and celebratory light.
Ten Ten’s presentation of the LGBT agenda therefore follows very much in the vein of Made in God’s image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in schools (2018) — one of the scandalous CES propaganda documents, along with Learning to Love: An introduction to Catholic Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) for Catholic Educators (2017), which were critiqued in my previous article, highlighting the way in which they gravely distort and misrepresent Scripture and authentic Catholic teaching. Learning to Love refers to same sex relationships as being able to constitute “an exalted form of love” and, on behalf of the Church, “applaud[s] the great progress that has been made in countering all forms of discrimination against homosexuality in recent times, and wish[es] to collaborate with efforts to make such discrimination obsolete” (p.17); whilst Made in God’s Image provides schools with a whole scheme of work to promote acceptance of the LGBT agenda, instructing adolescent boys and girls that an “aversion” to homosexuality is “based on irrational fear” (p.16). Despite repeated requests from concerned parents, grandparents and other Catholic faithful to Cardinal Nichols and the Bishops to withdraw these publications, they are still, to this date, promoted as official resources of the Catholic Education Service. Indeed, Church leaders simply refuse even to acknowledge that there is any kind of problem with them. For instance, Bishop Patrick Mckinney (Nottingham) — one of at least five English bishops who support LGBTQ+ Masses and “ministries” in their dioceses — has stated that Made in God’s Image is approved by the Bishops and “does not promote homosexuality”, whilst the Diocesan Education Service (Birmingham) has stated, on behalf of Archbishop Bernard Longley, that these documents “have been written and produced by experts in theology and education”, and “in producing them much time will have been spent scrutinising them in prayer and discernment to ensure that they reflect the doctrines and teachings of the Church”. There must therefore be a lot of prayerful and discerning Catholic theologians working with Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland, from whom much of the content of Made in God’s Image has been copied and pasted.
The Coalition in Defence of Primary Educators: Correspondence with the Bishops
The Coalition in Defence of Primary Educators (CDPE) was formed by concerned Catholic parents and members of the faithful in December 2019, following a pilgrimage of reparation in Walsingham, and is led by SPUC, the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales and Catholic Man UK. On 12 September 2020, the leaders of these organisations, following public witness of kneeling and prayer of the Rosary in the piazza before Westminster Cathedral, hand delivered a letter to H.E. Vincent Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and President of the CBCEW, regarding the Bishops’ Conference’s support for legislation imposing pro-LGBT Relationships and Sex Education on school children in England. Rev Canon Christopher Thomas, General Secretary of the CBCEW, replied on behalf of Cardinal Nichols (27 September 2020), but provided evasive answers to the specific concerns raised in the correspondence, claiming that RSHE was being taught in Catholic schools “in line with Church teaching” and was unaffected by Government legislation and regulations. The Coalition responded (21 November) with a detailed explanation of the law and how, with the active support of the Catholic hierarchy, it now puts parents in an impossible position, as well as providing further evidence that CES documents and resources on RSHE undermined authentic Church teaching.
The Coalition specifically called on Cardinal Nichols and the CBCEW to 1) publicly support the campaign to reinstate the parental right of withdrawal, 2) publicly challenge the new OFSTED guidance forcing schools to teach the LGBT agenda (see below), 3) publicly support parents who choose to withdraw their children from RSE teaching that they know is contrary to the Catholic faith and their best parental judgement, and 4) publicly withdraw from circulation the CES model RSE curriculum (Autumn 2019), Learning to love (2017), Made in God’s Image (2018) “with a view to removing text which gives rise to serious scandal and thoroughly review the content of, and the approaches adopted in, these publications”. Canon Thomas again responded on behalf of Cardinal Nichols (10 December) but answers to the specific concerns raised were similarly evasive and misleading. The Coalition, however, again responded comprehensively (11 May) with a repeat of the original requests made, after which Canon Thomas replied (28 May) by simply repeating previous statements and referring Coalition leaders to a much circulated FAQs document from the Department of Catholic Education and Formation which had already been extensively critiqued in the previous correspondence. Many of the faithful have also written letters to their Bishops around the country and have generally had very similar responses. The correspondence between the CDPE and Cardinal Nichols’ office can be accessed via www.primaryeducators.org.uk.
The threat of new OFSTED guidance on “teaching the protected characteristics”
The situation for parents, as well as for conscientious schools and teachers trying to resist the corruption of their children, has actually worsened due to new OFSTED guidance on “Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools”, first published in September 2020. This guidance for school inspectors was clearly timed to coincide with the coming into force of the new RSHE regime and is also the DfE’s underhand way of forcing even all primary schools to promote the LGBT agenda, since increasing numbers of parents and schools were becoming aware that the Statutory Guidance did not make LGBT teaching mandatory for primary schools (p.15), with supplementary (non-statutory) “information” from the DfE stating only that “primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled to cover LGBT content when teaching about different types of families” [my emphasis]. The new OFSTED guidance, however, states that all schools — including (Catholic) primary schools – face being sanctioned with a “requires improvement” judgement for “personal development of pupils” for not “promoting awareness of all of the protected characteristics”. The nine “protected characteristics” of the 2010 Equality Act include “sexual orientation”, “gender reassignment” and “marriage and civil partnership” (with the state also, since 2013, recognising “marriage” to include “same sex marriage”). In practice, OFSTED has used this manufactured requirement, even before their September 2020 guidance, in order to fail faith schools, especially Orthodox Jewish primary schools, who will not teach young children positively to accept homosexuality and transgenderism, and they have now stated that they will take this approach with all schools.
Canon Thomas, responding on behalf of Cardinal Nichols, completely sidestepped this fact when it was pointed out to His Eminence in a letter (21 November 2020) from the CDPE. He rightly stated in his response (10 December 2020) that the OFSTED guidance “will not have an impact on the leadership and management judgement” – however, OFSTED guidance also adds that this is “as long as the school can satisfy inspectors that it has still fulfilled the requirements of the DfE’s statutory guidance”. The Statutory RSHE Guidance, however, is worded in such a way that it can still be used by OFSTED to require even primary schools to teach LGBT issues – for instance, through the requirement to teach “respect” for different types of family structure, or the importance of “marriage”, which the RSHE Guidance regards as also constituting a union between two people of the same sex (see pp.19-22). Furthermore, the same OFSTED guidance states that “if a school does not promote pupils’ awareness and understanding of all the protected characteristics effectively”, this may result in a “requires improvement judgement for personal development” [our emphasis].
So the OFSTED guidance is effectively stating that primary schools may well be downgraded for not teaching LGBT anyway – not just as part of the “leadership and management judgement”, on the grounds that they are not fully following the Statutory RSE Guidance (though there is still potential for this to happen), but rather in reference to the “personal development” of pupils criteria, because OFSTED are claiming that this is what is required by the school’s Public Sector Equality Duty under the Equality Act 2010. It could be contended that the OFSTED guidance in this respect is ultra vires because the Equality Act is not supposed to apply to the curriculum (and this might be subject to legal challenge), but otherwise this leaves OFSTED clear scope to downgrade a primary school for not promoting LGBT ideology to young children.
The Coalition has requested of the Bishops that they must vigorously challenge the OFSTED guidance on behalf of the Church (21 Nov 2020, 11 May 2021). However, the evidence suggests that the Catholic education establishment is instead more than happy to comply with the indoctrination even of our youngest, most innocent children. A recent communication (3 May 2021) from Ten Ten refers to this latest guidance from OFSTED and enthusiastically expresses how LGBT-friendly their programme already is, providing an outline of how children are groomed into embracing this ideology from the early years of primary school onwards, and ensuring it is very well “integrated” by secondary school:
- In KS1 [ages 5-7], we look at family structures (particularly KS1, Module 2, Unit 2: Special People) and provide guidance for schools on talking about different family structures.
- In Lower KS2 [ages 7-9], we explore similarities and differences (LKS2 Module 1, Unit 2: We Don’t Have To Be The Same) and deepen children’s exploration of family and others in LKS2 Mod2 Unit 2: Family, Friend and Others.
- In Upper KS2 [ages 9-11], we explore difference once again through the Paradise Street series, including discussion around “two mums and two dads” etc.
- From Year 7 [ages 11+], we make it clear to students that the teaching of Relationship Education is for all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we begin to introduce scenarios that include people with the protected characteristics.
- In Year 8 [ages 12-13], we provide substantial teaching on the Protected Characteristics, an in-depth look at transgender people, and homophobia.
- In later years in secondary schools, we return to these topics in age-appropriate ways, ensuring that the teaching is appropriately integrated into the curriculum.
With such a well-established LGBTQ+ inclusive programme already in place, Ten Ten can proudly declare, in response to the OFSTED requirements, that “We are pleased to say that we believe the content of ‘Living Life to the Full’ is already pretty robust; moreover, we have some new developments planned for 2021/22 to support you and your school in your teaching of the statutory curriculum”. In other words, things are set to get even worse for children and conscientious parents in most Catholic schools over the new academic year.
The prospects for Catholic parents, children and teachers
After being so comprehensively betrayed and stonewalled by their shepherds, what is the situation now for Catholic parents and their children – including in Catholic schools? If parents have not been able to influence RSHE teaching for the better via the consultation process, what recourse do they have when their children are facing mandatory anti-Christian LGBT Relationships Education in their classrooms? What is the actual experience of parents at present and what can we predict for the next academic year?
An instructive example comes in the form of a recent case which Safe at School has been involved with, concerning a Catholic primary school, St Catherine’s, in Barnet, North London. In common with other parents Mrs Natasha Collins had been notified that the school would be delivering RSHE, according to the new Government regulations, and that the chosen programme would be Ten Ten’s “Living Life to the Full”. She was not aware that any consultation had taken place (though the school claims parents had been consulted), and she struggled to find out exactly what the school would be teaching her children in RSHE each week, especially as she knew the Ten Ten parental portal only showed a small selection of what the teachers would use. She was particularly concerned with mentions of “teaching the protected characteristics”, as well as about some of the lessons that were being delivered, such as NSPCC online safety lessons about “Nudes, Sexting and Porn”, which she knew were both unnecessary and inappropriate for her 8-year-old child.
Another parent alerted her to the fact that the book The Boy in the Dress, by celebrity author David Walliams, was being made available for children to read within the school. The Boy in the Dress is about a 12-year-old boy called Dennis, who enjoys cross-dressing; it is aimed at readers aged 8 to 12, and is intended to teach children that transvestism is healthy and acceptable and not something of which to be ashamed. Mrs Collins complained to the head teacher, Mrs Maureen Kelly, asking for its removal, but was informed that the book was “inconsequential” and the head teacher refused to do so after being supported in her stance by the Westminster Diocese Education Service, who informed her that they have “no policy” on or directive for such books. However, the diocesan representative did suggest that “each pupil’s ‘fundamental right to have their life respected’ is relevant here, and the CES model curriculum stipulates children are taught ‘everyone expresses their uniqueness in different ways and that being different is not always easy’”. Given that dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex is explicitly condemned in the Bible (Deut 22:5) this is of course an extraordinary statement for any Catholic education service to make. Matters got worse, however, when the school announced in its parents’ newsletter that they would be celebrating “Pride Month” for the whole month of June 2021. The parent, Mrs Collins, again complained, but when it was clear that her very justified concerns were not being taken seriously, either by the school or the Catholic education authorities, she felt she had no choice, following Gospel principles (Mt 18:17), but to take her complaint to the wider Church. She went to a Catholic media outlet who ran a story about the scandal of a Catholic primary school celebrating Pride Month and promoting cross dressing. This ended up with her being accused of “spreading hate” and being banned from accessing the school premises and from any school meetings (including virtual meetings; as well as from contacting any of the staff (except the head teacher) about her children. She is currently looking into various options, including what legal recourse she may have against the school.
If a parent can find themselves silenced in this way after attempting to protect their children, in a Catholic school, from the celebration of gay “pride month”, then we might well see this as a disturbing sign of what is to come. In some other more positive recent cases Safe at School has dealt with, however, the head teacher has either not acted to sanction the parent after withdrawing their child from an unsuitable RSHE lesson, or they have relented and allowed them to withdraw. The situation will, to a certain extent, be different from school to school. We are very much moving into unchartered waters. The law itself is somewhat of a grey area. The 1996 Education Act (Part 1; Ch.1, Section 7) puts an obligation on parents to provide a suitable full-time education for their child “either by regular attendance at school or otherwise”. “Regular attendance” at school is normally interpreted as following the school’s attendance policy which usually requires all absences to be authorised. Head teachers have the authority to issue fixed penalty fines for unauthorised non-attendance, which most frequently happens, for instance, when parents take their children away on holiday during term time without permission. The local authority can take a range of actions, including prosecution, against a parent where school absence over time becomes very problematic without what is judged to be a good reason. It is hard to imagine that a parent withdrawing their child from an RSHE lesson, due to content they consider to be unsuitable for them, could be judged to be acting unreasonably and deserving of sanction, as long as school attendance remains otherwise “regular” – especially if the parent is stating that they will provide alternative RSHE provision themselves at home, according to their best judgement and values. However, we are, of course, in a culture where the educational and legal establishments are not necessarily sympathetic to parental rights – especially when it comes the perceived necessity of practical sex education and the inculcated acceptance of all things LGBT.
Home education is of course an option which has grown exponentially in popularity in recent times. Figures published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services show that 19,510 children have been removed from school registers since the start of the 2020/21 academic year alone. The school closures and enforced COVID isolations of the past 18 months have prompted countless parents to try home education themselves for the first time, and many have found it a positive experience, both for themselves and their children, which they wish to continue. However, home education is not a practical solution for all parents, and, in any case, it may not necessarily be the long-term safe haven it promises to be, with the Government announcing its intention to introduce compulsory registration for home educators, which may, it is feared, also facilitate further forms of state intrusion, including inspection.
I have mainly been focusing in this article on the situation from the point of view of parents. Safe at School, however, has also been approached over the past year by an increasing number of teachers needing support in resisting the compulsion to promote the LGBT agenda to the children in their care. This has included Catholic teachers who have found their jobs and livelihoods under severe threat after refusing to deliver lessons promoting LGBT ideology, which are now becoming all-pervasive across the curriculum. This is another group of faithful Catholics who have been completely abandoned by their Bishops.
In such a position we must all now turn to almighty God for our true deliverance and for our children’s protection like never before. That, in itself, in faith should be a source of pure hope and confidence. The God who created the Universe; who parted the Red Sea to deliver His people from Pharoah’s army (Exod 14:10-31), who smote via an angel 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who had besieged beleaguered Jerusalem when King Hezekiah turned to Him in faith (2 Kings 19:15-37), surely can and will deliver our children from the evil education policies that are so harmful both to their temporal well-being and their eternal salvation. We are all in this together, and we would encourage concerned parents and teachers to approach Safe at School for help and support wherever required. As we have seen, there are a number of practical approaches at our disposal which can and do often produce positive results. This is a battle that is now being fought by parents and teachers on the frontline of our schools, and we will win this school by school. I would also encourage all of the faithful, including clergy, to sign up to support the Coalition in Defence of Primary Educators. This is above all a spiritual battle and, as in many other areas we face, it cannot be won without prayer and action from a renewed Church Militant to transform Christ’s Church from within, in order to be what it should be, a beacon of light and truth to the rest of our society and to our world.
 Baroness Berridge, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, Response to Parliamentary Question, UIN HL9548,10 November 2020.
 Department for Education, Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education: Statutory guidance for governing bodies, proprietors, head teachers, principals, senior leadership teams, teachers, 2019; pp.18-19, 24.
 Department for Education, Parental Engagement on Relationships Education (2019), p.2;
 Statutory Instrument 2019 No. 924 Education, England: The Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019, 9th May 2019. See section 8 (80B) (3) (p.3) with regard to maintained schools; section 12 (2A) (f) (p.4) with regard to independent schools, and section 13 (25) (5) (p.5) with reference to non-maintained special schools.
 This term, for instance, is used throughout the Department for Education’s Parental Engagement on Relationships Education (2019), which was published some months after the passing of the RSHE Regulations 2019.
 The Jigsaw Terms & Conditions state: “5.2. Jigsaw grants to the Customer a non-exclusive licence to copy and distribute the Materials to the Customer’s teaching staff (not to parents/pupils or anyone outside of the school staff) and to use the Materials for the sole purpose of delivering tuition to the Customer’s pupils on personal, social, health and economic education, including the right to upload and distribute copies of the Materials onto the Customer’s secure, password protected, online/virtual learning environment, so that the Materials may be viewed and downloaded by the Customer’s teaching staff only. Save as provided in this clause 5.2, the Customer is prohibited from issuing, distributing or otherwise communicating the Materials to the public, including the following: 5.2.1. distributing the Materials (or any part of them) to, or otherwise making them available to, parents/guardians (with the exception of the Jigsaw Families Programme materials designated for use at home) of the Customer’s pupils or any other third party (e.g. teachers or pupils in another school/educational establishment); 5.2.2. hosting copies of the Materials (or any part of them) on the Customer’s website.” https://www.jigsawpshe.com/
 DfE RSHE Statutory Guidance 2019. P.13.
 Catholic Education Service, St Mary’s University, Made in God’s Image: Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic schools (2017; 2nd edn. 2018); https://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/images/CES-Project_Homophobic-Bullying-Book- let_JUN18_PROOF-9.pdf ; Department of Catholic Education and Formation Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, Learning to Love: An introduction to Catholic Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) for Catholic Educators, March 2017; https://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/images/Learning2love.pdf.pdf
 Other English bishops officially supporting LGBT Masses and/or “ministries” in their dioceses include Cardinal Vincent Nichols (Westminster), Bishop John Arnold (Salford), Bishop Declan Lang (Clifton), Bishop Terence Drainey (Middlesborough), and the former Bishop of Northampton, Peter Doyle, openly supported changing Church teaching on homosexuality. See Paul Smeaton,”LGBT ‘Pride’ Masses taking over multiple Catholic dioceses in England”, Lifesite, 4th Nov 2019; https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/lgbt-pride-masses-taking-over-multiple-catholic-dioceses-in-england/
 Rt Rev Patrick Mckinney (9 April 2019) and Maggie Duggan, Deputy Director for Catholic Education, on behalf of Archbishop Bernard Longley (20 May 2021) in letters to members of the faithful (on file).
 The Countercultural Father blog (12 May 2017), for instance, notes that (in relation to the first 2017 edition) “A cursory glance at the relevant documents suggests that one page of Made in God’s Image (page 3) is lifted verbatim from Stonewall’s document (page 6) and no fewer than seven (pp. 12, 14, 20, 23, 24, 25 and 26) are lifted verbatim or (in a few cases) in large part from the LGBT Youth Scotland document (pp. 7, 8, 9, 10, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 31)”; http://ccfather. blogspot.com/2017/05/schrodingers-funding.html
 OFSTED, “Guidance: Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools”, Updated 19 April 2021 [first published 17 September 2020]; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inspecting-teaching-of-the-protected-characteristics-in-schools/inspecting-teaching-of-the-protected-characteristics-in-schools
 Department for Education, Government response: Relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education: FAQs: Information from the Department for Education about the introduction of compulsory relationships education and RSE from September 2020, 5 April 2019; Last updated 9 July 2020; https://www.gov.uk/government/news/relationships-education-relationships-and-sex-education-rse-and-health-education-faqs
 For instance, in May 2017 Vishnitz Girls School, an Orthodox Jewish primary school, failed its third OFSTED inspection in a year specifically because the school acknowledged that it did not teach its young children (aged 3-11) about homosexuality and transgenderism. The original report stated that “the school’s approach means that pupils are shielded from learning about certain differences between people, such as sexual orientation. […] They acknowledge that they do not teach pupils about all the protected characteristics [of the Equality Act 2010], particularly those relating to gender re-assignment and sexual orientation. This means that pupils have a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society.” OFSTED, “Vishnitz Girls School: School Progress Monitoring Inspection Report”, 10 May 2017 (ref. 138516). Note, following the justifiably negative publicity on publication of this report, OFSTED subsequently replaced the original report with a redacted version (ref. 138515_5) on its website – one which had removed any direct references to “sexual orientation” and “gender reassignment”, hence attempting to conceal the real reason why the school was failed. Gateshead Jewish Primary (Nov 2019) and Yesoday Hatorah (May 2017) were also failed by OFSTED, in similarly worded reports, because they did not teach on “all of the protected characteristics”.
 Ten Ten Resources, “The First Monday Email: Catholic Primary Schools”, May 2021 [on file].
 Email (6 April 2021) from head teacher, St Catherine’s RC Primary School, Barnet, to Mrs Collins (on file).
 See Jules Gomes, “Catholic school defends cross-dressing kids” (24 June 2021) and “Crossdressing Catholic school bans mom” (7 July 2021) , Church Militant; https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/catholic-school-defends-book-on-cross-dressing; https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/cross-dressing-book-catholic-school-bans-mum
 Letters (20 and 30 July 2021) from head teacher, St Catherine’s RC Primary School, Barnet, to Mrs Collins (on file).
 Parliamentary question from Baroness Cavendish of Little Venice, answered by Baroness Berridge, UIN HL 560, 25 May 2021.