Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parliament fails children on sex education

The Children, Schools, and Family Bill was passed last night by Parliament. In general this was a good piece of legislation that made Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (which includes sex education) part of the National Curriculum. However an amendmend was added that seriously weakened the bill by allowing tax-payer funded schools with religious foundations to opt out of these requirements. This means that while all other schools are required to teach "balanced" and "accurate" sex education, tax-payer funded faith schools (around a third of all schools in Britain) can choose not to if they believe it contradicts their "religious ethos." The bill as it stood without the amendment already allowed for education that explored and respected different cultural and religious perspectives, and would have already allowed tax-payer funded faith schools to teach their religious views on issues of sexuality. But now the religious ethos can trump all other principles. If you claim its because of your religious ethos, there is no requirement that your sex education has to be accurate.

This is a failure of the thousands of children in state-funded faith schools. In a country with a large teenage pregnancy problem, this is a failure on behalf of the government to have the courage to deal with the problem.

Also worrying is the fact that homophobic bullying is a worse problem in tax-payer funded faith schools. The bill will now do nothing to address that problem.

What's also got me angry is the fact that there wasn't even time to debate this amendment last night in Parliament. This is a huge issue and Parliament didn't even get around to talking about it before they were asked to pass it? What is going on? Whatever you think about an issue, surely the whole point of Parliament is to debate an issue? How much more evidence do you need that Parliament is in dire need of reform?

If you are as annoyed as me about this, please support the Accord Coalition, that campaigns for an inclusive schooling system.


Anonymous a said...

No debate because we're running out of parliamentary time. But in any case, with a large majority, there's very little fear that a government amendment will fail. We need to move to PR and coalition governments, even though that'll lead to BNP MPs.

11:54 pm  
Blogger Yewtree said...

I've signed up for Accord's bulletin. Thanks for the tip-off.

11:00 pm  
Anonymous Tim said...

Thanks for raising this. I too support the aims of the Accord Coalition.

A: I agree with you about proportional representation. I don't think the current reforms for Alternate Voting go far enough. I personally would advocate a (southern) Irish voting system whereby voters state a numbered preference for 3, 4, or 5 seats in each constituency. It's complex, but much more democratic than the British system. I agree that PR would probably bring in the BNP and other lunatics, but to me that is the fault of the political culture, not the system. Interestingly, although Irish politics isn't without its problems (starting with nepotism), there are actually fewer parties represented in the Dail than in the House of Commons!

On faith schools, I recently offered a reflection on another blog I comment on regularly:

5:33 pm  

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