Parents of 300 children who attend Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets have sent a legal letter to the school claiming that it has failed to adequately consult with them over the implementation of its Relationship and Sex Education policy.
The letter, sent by Child & Child solicitors, has the backing of 125 parents and says the school has failed to consider the impact of COVID-19 when the consultation was put through, failed to give parents an adequate amount of time to respond to the consultation, and failed to bring the consultation sufficiently to the attention of parents through a separate letter.
Parents held two protests outside the school a few months ago voicing their concerns about RSE lessons. They were particularly unhappy about the teaching of LGBTQ+ relationships and “sexual body parts” before Year 5, when children are between the ages nine and ten. The parents even called on the headteacher to resign.
The legal letter says: “The Headteacher and Governing Body… of the MPS (Manorfield Primary School) are on notice that the POM (Parents of Manorfield) is considering further action as regards the consultation and review process. However, after discussion, and with a firm commitment to what is in the best interests of the children, it has been decided that a better option at this stage is to discuss with MPS Management, ways of getting better and meaningful engagement with parents going forward. In particular the POM are concerned that that the MPS Management have created an environment that excludes parents from meaningful dialogue with the school such that they feel that their views are not being listened to.
“Our clients believe that it is in the best interests of both parties to explore whether the matter can be resolved without the POM needing to pursue a claim for Judicial Review. This is to ensure and maintain a better relationship between the schools governing body/Management and the POM.”
The parents are also requesting that the school appoint an additional parent governor to reflect the fact that the majority of the students and parents of Manorfield Primary School are of Bengali and Somali origin.
The letter says: “A predominantly white ethnic make-up of the board of governors, where the decisions effect a majority non-white ethnic demographic, are themselves indicative that representation at senior level, of parent concerns, cannot effectively be conveyed. It is already clear as to what problems can arise where there is a disconnect between the people representing and subject of those decisions.”
5Pillars has contacted the school for a response.
Previously a spokesperson for the school said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our pupils is our top priority, and we work hard as a school to ensure that our full curriculum supports this. Our school also values open and constructive dialogue between the school and the community it serves, especially parents, which is why we have offered a number of consultative activities and opportunities for parents to engage with the RSE policy. We have listened to all of their feedback and taken it into consideration along with all of the guidance from the Department for Education and London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Any updates to the policy will be announced later this week and the policy will be published on our website.”
A spokesman for Department of Education added: “Primary schools are required to teach about healthy relationships, including friendships. Guidance is published for schools covering this following a wide consultation with a variety of groups. It is important that teachers feel confident and safe delivering in following this guidance.”