This week, under pressure from an increasingly hysterical press and with its hand forced by the NC5 amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, the DfE finally made the long expected announcement that SRE would become compulsory in all schools. The DfE amendment has also ring fenced compulsory PSHE, with frameworks and regulation to be visited at some time in the future.
Nobody who works with children and young people in any capacity will deny that something needs to be done. Sexting and revenge porn have reached epidemic proportions. Pornography is easily available on a smartphone. STIs are increasing at a rate which threatens the long term health of women. This is the modern world which young people have to navigate. But is the answer compulsory SRE, particularly when the aim is merely to teach young people to protect themselves against a range of threats? Do we really want to reduce SRE to lessons in self-defence?
We already have compulsory SRE in the form of science lessons about puberty, reproduction and sexual health, so the concept itself is nothing new. What is new is the content and scope of the proposals to deal with a set of complex problems, all brought under one single policy. But the real problem is the ideology that underpins the thinking.
In agreeing, as many do, that we need this move to protect our children, there is an implicit acceptance that society should continue along the ‘anything goes’ liberal route that it is currently travelling. The global sexual revolution has seen a wholesale abandonment of moral absolutes. Nothing is right or wrong. Nothing is good or bad. Schools must teach (and the majority of teachers buy into the liberal lie) that everything is equally valid as long as nobody gets hurt. If schools teach the lessons, the government discharges its responsibility, so presumably if children and young people get hurt, it’s nobody’s fault but their own. Teaching self-defence in any context is a tacit acceptance that the threat is out of control, yet the DfE chooses this route, rather than deal with the threat. Because that, of course, would be to reverse decades of the liberal orthodoxy that underpins social policy formation.
It’s an approach which will only make the world a more dangerous place. Children must be sexualised from the age of four, so that adults can continue to live as they please. They will be trained to spot grooming and potential abuse, so adding guilt to their trauma when they fail to identify an abuser. Young people must be taught about violence against women, so vilifying as potential abusers the millions of men who are loving, caring husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and friends. Consent becomes a form of risk assessment – it’s fine to have fun, just minimise the chance of getting hurt.
Here’s a revolutionary thought – change social attitudes so that our children grow up in a world where moral absolutes underpin our behaviour, our choices and the way we handle relationships. That is the only way to create a safe world. The apostle Paul suggests such a choice in his letter to the church in Philippi: ‘whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things’ (Philippians 4:8). How about that as a foundation for what children view online, and what conversations young people have as they form relationships?
And that raises the key question in all of this. Where, in the frenzy to define relationships education, does anyone talk about family? Yet this policy will lead to the destruction of family freedom. The initial press release said that parental opt out was to be protected for secondary RSE, but that is now reportedly under review as it denies students’ entitlement under the Human Rights Act. Even if it is protected, that is a long way from teaching about enjoying sex within a strong, healthy, enduring relationship; one where children can grow and flourish within a secure family with parents who love each other. All the evidence shows that this is the best possible start that a child can be given in life, yet the concept of family is excluded from preparation for life in modern Britain, even when the government’s own research demonstrates the vital importance of strong, stable families.
And nowhere is parental responsibility discussed. Parents are their children’s first and best educators: ‘These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). That’s the way God designed the family and the role of parents within it. Parents should be taking responsibility for protecting their children and schools should acknowledge the importance of parental values when teaching about relationships.
When the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the Named Person scheme, the justices made this observation: ‘The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.’ And that is what is happening here. The government, together with the liberal advisory groups with which it has surrounded itself, is determined on totalitarian control of education, even when it destroys family freedoms.
Contemporary society is the first in history to abandon the family unit as its basic building block. We do so at our peril, because it is God’s design. God created men and women to live together in mutual support (Genesis 2:18). Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train our children in the way they should go, so that when they are old ‘they will not depart from it’. This, and not compulsory SRE, is the way out of the chaos and confusion in which we expect children and young people to live and thrive in 21st century Britain.