But an amendment tabled by Schools Secretary Ed Balls, which the Catholic Education Service are claiming credit for securing, would allow faith schools to teach sex education in a “in a way that reflects the school’s religious character”, which the the BHA and other groups that have been campaigning on the matter are warning would catastrophically dilute the legislation. For instance, it would leave religious schools free to express misleading views on contraception and discriminatory views on homosexuality.
Andrew Copson, the BHA's Chief Executive, said:
"The Government’s amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill effectively provides an opt-out for faith schools from teaching full, comprehensive and objective Sex and Relationships Education. This is a U-Turn from the original commitment in the Bill which put a duty on schools to teach SRE in ways that promote equality, diversity and rights, in ways that are sensitive to the children’s backgrounds, rather than the schools."And Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who heads the Accord Coalition of religious and secular groups opposed to faith schools, also expressed his disappointment:
"It is astonishing that the government plans to deny young people of their right to accurate, balanced PSHE and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), and allow state funded schools to teach the subject from one religious viewpoint. By taking this position, Ed Balls is implicitly condoning homophobia in schools and undermining attempts to tackle homophobic bullying. After Labour has done so much for equality, this looks like a 21st century Section 28."Speaking to The Times, however, a spokesperson for the epartment for Children, Schools and Families denied that this was the case:
“It is a complete misrepresentation of the Bill to say that it effectively reintroduces Section 28. Faith schools cannot opt out of statutory sex and relationships education lessons when it comes into effect in September 2011. Schools with a religious character will be free, as now, to express the views of their faith, but they cannot suggest their views are the only ones.”The amendment is debated in parliament this coming Tuesday (23 February), and the BHA are urging people to write to their MPs to ask them to vote against it. You can use the BHA's email system, which provides a template, to do this.
Update: Andrew Copson of the BHA has written about this on Comment is Free.