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Monday, 22 March 2010

DCSF on teaching "divergent views"

A correspondent has sent the following reply received from the Public Communications Unit of the DCSF in response to an email about Catholic schools and sex education.
Dear ---

Thank you for your email of 24 February, addressed to Ed Balls about sex education within faith schools. As you can appreciate, Mr Balls receives a large volume of correspondence and cannot answer them all personally. On this occasion I have been asked to reply.

This amendment confirms that schools can teach Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, including sex and relationships education (SRE) in a way that reflects the schools religious character and ethos. However, there remains a legal obligation on the head and on the governing body of all schools, including faith schools, to comply with the principles in the legislation. These include requirements that material presented is factually accurate and balanced, for example, that information provided by schools should reflect the latest medical evidence available on topics such as pregnancy choices.

All schools will be required to teach the full PSHE education statutory programmes of study. However, these are written at a high-level and do not prescribe how material should be presented, or what resources schools should used to deliver their SRE programme. This will allow schools to take account of the ethos of the school, the views of parents and pupils and the issues that affect their local communities, while ensuring all young people receive a consistent core of accurate information. Schools with a religious character will, as now, be able to teach their faith’s view on issues that arise within the teaching of PSHE education, but they will not be able to do is suggest that their views are the only valid ones, and they must make clear that there are a wide range of divergent views.

We recognise that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to SRE is not appropriate. But at the same time, we do believe that every school should provide factual information on a core set of topics, to remove the current inconsistency in what young people receive. We believe that our proposals strike an appropriate balance.

Once again, thank you for writing.

Yours sincerely

Leona Smith
Public Communications Unit
www.dcsf.gov.uk
This reply further reinforces the point made by many commenters that the Government's policy is not to say that Catholic schools may present Catholic teaching but that they are to present the Government's teaching. They may do so in some way or another that vaguely "reflects the school's religious character and ethos". What is absolutely forbidden is to suggest that that "their views" (Catholic doctrines?) are the only "valid" ones. This is simply a bureaucratic way of saying that they may not present Catholic teaching as true.

As for "latest medical evidence" and "factual information", the Government (and OSTED, which will enforce the Government's policy) is unlikely to accept facts and medical evidence which challenge the "view" that promoting contraception fuels the problem it is trying to solve (a soaring rate of teenage pregnancy) or undermines the "view" that abortion is a largely consequence-free "pregnancy choice".
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