Category Archives: Review

CSE: SOCIETY’S GUILT

This week, the BBC screened Three Girls, a harrowing three-part programme about the battle for justice for victims of the Rochdale child grooming case. It tells the sickening story of sustained abuse and the reaction of authorities that, in failing to believe them and act, abandoned the girls to their suffering. Viewers might have found it hard hitting as a drama – but it was all the more sickening because it was based on facts. This actually happened. And not only to three girls.

One of the most distressing moments of the whole series was its ending, when a list of local authorities where cases of child abuse have been prosecuted across the country faded onto screen – 36 in all. Child sexual exploitation (CSE) and abuse has happened right across the country, for many years, and to thousands of girls. It is suffering on a huge scale – suffering for which society must accept full responsibility.

Also this week, a report dropped through my letterbox, written by Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust. Titled Unprotected, it examines some of the serious case reviews which have finally got to the root of the CSE crisis. The report analyses the complex reasons for the abuse but also asks whether society is heeding the worrying messages that these case reviews reveal.

The report is structured in three sections. The first considers the evidence from 7 serious case reviews around the country, together with the Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham. The analysis shows that the means of exploitation are as varied as their occurrences – some are organised, as a result of grooming. Some are opportunistic. Others involve ‘recruitment’ within friendship groups, and for many, technology plays a key role. Peer-on-peer abuse accounts for an estimated 30 per cent of all exploitation. So what has happened to our society, that CSE has become so widespread, so embedded?

Where, you may wonder, are the parents in all of this? The sickening truth is that loving, desperate parents have tried with dogged determination to get help for their daughters, only to find that they have often been labelled by the authorities as part of the problem. Their daughters, they are told, have made independent lifestyle choices as part of growing up and they are simply exercising their rights.

So, do we not have rigorous child protection protocols, designed to identify abused children? We do, but they clearly aren’t working, and the report concludes that this is because the current climate of protecting children from early pregnancy and access to confidential sexual health advice not only militates against genuine protection, it actually makes it easier for abusers to groom and exploit. So GPs prescribe contraception and the morning after pill (sometimes repeatedly) to children as young as 11. Guidelines say that if a child requests confidentiality and is judged able to make consensual decisions, a health professional need not inform parents or involve child protection authorities. The fact that girls are requesting contraception in the first place is deemed evidence enough of the maturity to be given what they request. Prioritising confidentiality over safeguarding creates a climate in which CSE could flourish.

But we have an age of consent, don’t we? Yes, but this is largely ignored, particularly when sexual activity is underage, but seen as being between consenting teens. For many of the abused, the fact that they talked about their ‘boyfriend’ when they sought help, meant that the authorities assumed it to be normal consensual activity. No questions were asked about the age of the ‘boyfriend’ and even if they had, the girls often didn’t know, or had been lied to.

Finally, the report suggests that no amount of improved joined up thinking between child protection agencies will solve this problem, because it is essentially a social and moral one. The third part of the report makes a range of recommendations which society at large needs to take on board. These include consideration of the confidential provision of contraception and sexual health treatment and the abolition of the idea of ‘rights’ for a child to be sexually active. These have become social norms and in condoning ever-earlier sexual activity, society is making it easy for abusers to flourish.

During the autumn, the government will consult on the new Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum and also consider statutory content for PSHE. Many are calling for better education to protect children from abuse, whilst allowing children to remain sexually active. The report calls for something different: the restoration of rigour and respect for parents; the recovery of the age of consent, and the prioritising of marriage, family life and a moral framework in RSE.

Do you need to read this report? If you are a parent, yes. If you are a teacher, youth worker or health worker, yes. If you care about children and young people, and the mess that we have created for them, yes. The report’s author writes: ‘We need nothing less than a fundamental change in how, as a society, we view children and young people, how we perceive parental responsibility, how we treat the family unit, and how we regard the law’.

If we don’t heed the warnings from the past, we are merely condemning children of the future to the same exploitation, abuse and suffering.

WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING THE CHILDREN?

 

Twenty first century education has become an ideological battleground between secular belief and the Judaeo-Christian foundation on which our education service has evolved over centuries. This is nowhere better demonstrated than in that amorphous concept espoused by successive governments and known as British values. What are they teaching the children? is the result of one person’s search for a definition of those values – whose and what values are we referring to? It is a meticulously researched, valid contribution to the national debate.

One of the purposes of education is to transmit values from one generation to the next. The social upheaval of the last 50 years has been reflected in education as we forge a modern, pluralist society, keen to find its place in global affairs. But what values are being transmitted to our children as a result? Are those values consistent with the Christian faith? Or should Christian parents be concerned?

In analysing the what, the how and the why of current education practice, this book provides anyone with a heart for education with a rich source of relevant, thoroughly researched information about the contemporary scene. It contains 12 essays, each written by an expert in the field, backed up with evidence and a comprehensive list of end notes and references. The essays include in-depth analysis of the purpose of education – the influences, ideas and concepts that have shaped the education system; the rise of the state, and the ‘secularist siege’ that is increasingly gaining ground in the public square.

There is detailed dissection of the current sexual ethic and the wholesale adoption of the concept of gender identity. One essay asks a difficult question – is this about education, or about indoctrination? Whatever the answer, there is evidence which should leave the reader in no doubt that powerful lobbies have planted their flags on the curriculum, using an equalities agenda and human rights legislation to justify their position.

Scientism, and the response of the educational establishment to any alternative to the teaching of evolution as evidenced fact, is skilfully investigated. There are chapters on the relevance of Christian assemblies and the vital importance of teaching RE.

If you want to understand why people who embrace Christian values are increasingly no-platformed in the public sphere, or why Christians are accused of being hate-filled, homophobic indoctrinators, then this is the book to read. If you are a church leader or youth worker wanting to understand the underpinning ideology of modern education, then this is the book to read. If you are a parent who wants to be informed, and who wants the freedom to educate your child according to your philosophical and religious beliefs, then this is a book which you must read.

It would be all too easy to blame secular or liberal forces for the direction in which our education service is heading. But what are Christians doing to make their voice heard above the secular clamour? Are parents exercising their rights under international law (and regularly acknowledged by successive governments) to be the primary educators of their children?

What are they teaching the children? is a comprehensive, data-rich and cogently argued analysis of contemporary education. To engage in any debate, you need to be informed and this is the go to book for that information.

 

What are they teaching the children? is compiled and edited by Rev Lynda Rose, CEO of Voices for Justice. A conference is being held by the organisation on 25 March, when several of the book’s contributors will be speaking.

 

 

TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS: THE SERVANT QUEEN

 

21 April marks the 90th birthday of the Queen, our longest serving monarch. To celebrate the event, the Bible Society, HOPE and the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity have jointly published The Servant Queen and the King she serves, a 64 page book to support communities as they say thank you to God for a faithful life and to the Queen for a life of service to the country and the Commonwealth.

Co-written by Mark Greene of LICC and Catherine Butcher of HOPE, the book primarily uses the Queen’s own words from her many Christmas messages over the course of her long reign – words which reflect her deep faith in Christ. The Queen herself wrote the foreword to the book, in which she expresses gratitude to God for his steadfast love.

Scripture Union has produced a schools version, aimed primarily at Year 6, although it would be equally useful for older and younger pupils. Just 12 pages long, it adopts a magazine style which incorporates information boxes, images, post-it notes and quizzes. Do you know, for example, how much the crown weighs in equivalent pineapples? Or how many Prime Ministers the Queen has advised?

Endorsed by the DfE, this is an excellent resource for meeting SMSC requirements. With an assembly outline and a lesson plan for support, you can explore the Queen’s attitude to service. Encourage pupils to explore the concept of service further and maybe choose a way to serve your local community as a special celebration to mark the Queen’s birthday.

Using the Queen’s own words from her Christmas broadcasts and the foreword to the book itself, you can explore how her faith has motivated her actions, through a life lived at the centre of our democracy. As author Mark Greene comments: ‘maybe someone will be surprised, impressed by the quiet fearlessness of the Queen’s openness about faith despite being a public figure in an increasingly secular society’.

Click here to purchase the full version of the book and the schools resource, which is provided in packs of 10.