Muslim parents in Redbridge, East London, say they will pull their children out of schools unless LGBT content is introduced in a way that respects the religious and cultural background of their kids.
The demand was made in a report by Parents United, which was formed in 2020 in response to concerns about Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) teaching in schools.
Parents United held a conference in November last year, when complaints were raised from Muslim parents about schools ignoring faith-sensitivity whilst teaching topics under RSE which, in some cases, went beyond RSE requirements.
Among other things, Parents United are demanding that schools should:
- Launch fresh consultations with the involvement of the community on RSE policies in order to be compliant with regulations.
- Show and agree all resources with parents before introduction into classrooms.
- Be transparent about when/how RSE is taught and the weighting of attention to LGBT and other protected characteristics.
- Encourage children to debate a range of controversial issues without presenting one view as correct.
Parents United are also demanding that the local council launch a review of materials allowed in schools under safeguarding and grooming concerns.
The Parents United report outlines several incidents in schools and local libraries that have caused great concern to Muslim parents.
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- A “dildo monkey” being brought into children’s reading time in libraries.
- A Muslim LGBT activist picked as a female role model on International Women’s Day.
- A child reprimanded and punished for expressing views on two biological sexes.
- An 11 year old upset and traumatised by exposure to sexual intercourse and arousal taught in science and PSHE.
- Parents of children who did not join an LGBT after-school club called in and questioned as to why.
The report concluded: “Continuing to inadequately address parents’ concerns about the protection of these rights will lead to deterioration in community relationships and seems to contradict the moral and legal principles schools and the Council are supposed to uphold.
“If parents are not given these rights and are left no choice but to pull their children out of school in order to secure these rights, their children are being denied equal opportunity and access to education.
“To reiterate, we believe schools should respect the diversity of opinions on sexuality and relationships among the families in our community. This includes opinions grounded in faith and the opinions of those who do not ascribe to an organised faith, who are equally appalled by the sexualised content in schools.
“The teaching of these sensitive topics should not present any view of personal morality as correct. As of yet, all evidence we have seen, suggests a one-sided narrative is being promoted in schools, and requests for clarification have not been adequately responded to.
“While schools have a statutory duty to promote diversity and good relationships between communities, this can only be achieved by encouraging genuine diversity of perspectives rather than imposing one.
“We argue, it is disrespectful and unhelpful to tell or to imply to children that the religious values they learn at home are bigoted or ‘phobic’ simply for having different views on relationships to those of others in our society. Tolerance and respect should be reciprocated and applied to beliefs as well as to identities and behaviours.”
Department for Education response
In response to the Parents United report, the Department for Education said pupils should “be taught about the society in which they are growing up” and subjects taught are “designed to foster respect for others and for difference and educate pupils about healthy relationships.”
The government ministry said: “The statutory RSHE guidance is clear that schools should take account of the religious background of all pupils when planning teaching, so that the topics that are included in the core content are appropriately handled. All schools may teach about faith perspectives and a balanced debate may take place about issues that are seen as contentious…
“Ultimately, it is for schools to decide how they teach the RSHE curriculum, but they are accountable for what they teach. It is for schools to decide what resources they use, but schools should make sure what they use is factual, age-appropriate and in line with their legal duties…
“Whilst we believe most schools are engaging with parents effectively, we recognise the concerns some parents have over access to RSE materials. Following discussions in the House of Lords last summer, ministers met a small group of parents to better understand their concerns about this issue, further to this, the examples you have referenced in your report will also help to inform our future thinking.
“The Department has also committed to write to all schools to remind them of their responsibility to share materials with parents and clarify what the law allows them to share. We appreciate it may not always be possible for schools to share full versions of materials electronically due to commercial issues, but there is nothing to stop schools inviting parents onto the school premises to view hard copies of materials…
“The Department has plans to monitor implementation of RSHE over time, including measuring teacher confidence in teaching the statutory requirements. We have contracted with IFF Research to undertake a national survey of school leaders, RSHE leads and RSHE teachers, supported by qualitative research with school staff and pupils. The final report will be published in 2024.”
You can read the Parents United report here: PU_RSE_Conference_2022_Report.02