EARLIER this year Dunja Mijatović, above, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner on Human Rights, sounded a warning that campaigns against the teaching of inclusive sex education were multiplying across Europe, to the detriment of school kids.
These campaigns, as we saw on numerous occasions in the UK, were spearheaded by faith groups, among the most vocal of whom were Muslim and Jewish. In Mijatović’s words, campaigns such as these:
Have presented sexuality education as sexualising children at an early age, ‘propaganda in favour of homosexuality’, spreading ‘gender ideology’, and depriving parents of their right to educate their children in accordance with their values and beliefs. Disinformation about the actual contents of the curriculum is deliberately spread to scare parents.
Well, we now learn that the UK education watchdog Ofsted has made concessions to an Orthodox Jewish schools’ group – Chinuch UK, a pressure group which opposes secular influence in Orthodox Jewish faith schools – by saying:
If a school requests that inspectors do not speak to pupils about a topic that the school reasonably believes is sensitive for its pupils, inspectors will not ask pupils questions about it.
However, Ofsted added that since secondary schools were required to teach about LGBT issues, if inspectors were unable to talk with pupils, they would be unable:
To demonstrate that the school is meeting its obligations.
That, Ofsted warned, would have “consequences” when inspectors gave their judgment on personal development of pupils, the school’s leadership and management, and its compliance with independent school standards.
In 2018 Rabbi Mordechai Rose, an orthodox rabbi affiliated with Chinuch UK called on Orthodox Jewish schools to resist requirements to teach evolution and about non-traditional relationships.
Rose alleged in an article that the government and Ofsted threatened the “survival and purity” of Orthodox Jewish schools.
He described evolution as “the scientific theory of creation” and criticised rules which prevent creationism being presented as fact, as well as:
Seemingly perverse alternative relationships.
He also expressed opposition to plans to make relationships and sex education (RSE) compulsory in all English schools from 2020.
The government is about to introduce obligatory relationship education which would force Jewish schools to teach about same-sex relationships and other immoral subjects which are totally unacceptable for our community.
Rose said it was:
Self-evident that Charedi schools will find it impossible to fulfil the requirements of the new proposed RSE legislation.
He criticised measures to give pupils “contact with other communities and other faiths” and prepare them:
For a lifestyle where men and women mix and intermingle.
He claimed this showed:
How the government’s new legislation discriminates particularly against our schools since we wish to keep ourselves separate from the non-Jewish way of life. It is time for strong and united action in order to protect ourselves from these threats to the survival and purity of our schools.
Determined not to be left out of the mounting hysteria over planned inclusive relationship lessons, Andrea Minichiello Williams, above, of Christian Concern, said in 2017:
More sex education has not worked up to now and will not work in the future.
There is no ‘age-appropriate’ way to teach primary school children about sexual relationships. Nor should primary school children be taught about homosexual relationships or transgenderism as they are too young to engage with such concepts.
She added that even in secondary schools:
Marriage between a man and a woman should be taught as the gold standard of relationships.
But now Chinuch UK says Ofsted’s capitulation:
Represents positive progress.
Schools would have “greater freedom” to listen to parents’ voices and decide what is appropriate, it said.
While this guidance does not resolve all issues for Charedi schools, it is a very constructive step and will have a positive impact.
This latest example of a government kowtowing to the demands of faith-heads will certainly dismay Dunja Mijatović who said that national and international research has proven the benefits of comprehensive sex education.
These benefits include less risky sexual behaviour, teenagers waiting until they’re older to have sex for the first time, increased use of contraception and improved attitudes towards sexual and reproductive health.
Sexuality education in schools is today all the more necessary as children in most cases can – and do – obtain information otherwise, in particular through the Internet and social media.
While these can be useful and appropriate sources of information, they can also convey a distorted image of sexuality and lack information on emotional and rights-related aspects of sexuality.
Through websites or social media children can also access scientifically inaccurate information, for example as regards contraception. It is worth emphasising that sexuality education in schools comes as a complement to and not a replacement of what may be shared by parents at home.
However, it cannot be left entirely to families. In what other field of science would we relinquish the education of our children to the internet or families exclusively?