And Tango Makes Three. It’s a book about two dad penguins who adopt a newly hatched penguin chick.
The educational world is shifting before our eyes. The Department of Education issued a policy statement earlier this year proposing that from September 2019 all primary schools will be required to deliver Relationships Education, and that all secondary schools will be required to provide Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). The Department expects schools to start planning for these changes right away.
In looking to put this policy on a statutory basis, the Department envisages that schools will have greater flexibility to integrate the teaching of these subjects across the curriculum. Relationships and Sex Education is less likely to be restricted to formal classes on the subject. You can expect to see a greater use of learning to read books that promote a particular agenda and of drama activities that are based on books such as And Tango Makes Three. Science lessons are likely to see further integration with RSE, as are health education programmes, religious education, citizenship and other classes.
There is no reason to think that Catholic schools won’t see more of this integrated approach. Indeed, the Catholic Education Service anticipated the new approach in advice that it issued last year. The guidance A model Catholic Primary RSE curriculum notes that ‘teaching on relationships and sexuality needs to be reflected in each relevant part of the curriculum.’
If you do find your local Catholic school promoting a secular approach to morality, this integrated approach will make it harder to avoid its influence on your child. Removing your son or daughter from a class covering Relationships and Sex Education will be less likely to suffice than might previously have been the case.
The issues at stake, however, are wider than whether or not secular moral values are promoted through the curriculum. There is a clear drift towards ever younger instruction in these areas – as evident in the requirement that Relationships Education will have to be covered in primary schools.
Indeed, the model primary Catholic RSE curriculum already proposes that children aged five and under are taught to identify and name their ‘private parts’, and that seven year olds are taught how a child is conceived within the womb.
If you judge that this sort of instruction should usually await the onset of puberty, then the challenges you have to face will only increase. After all, the Vatican document The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality stated that ‘premature sexual information’ (that is, information imparted ‘prior to puberty’) ‘tends to shatter their emotional and educational development and to disturb the natural serenity of this period of life.’ (section 83).
What can parents do?
Every parent needs to take his or her own responsibilities seriously in this area. You might take a look at the CTS booklet, Sex Education: A Parents’ Guide, that I wrote under the pen-name John Timpson, or you could get a copy of Louise Kirk’s excellent book Sexuality Explained. Schools are expected to liaise with parents in introducing changes in these areas, so it would help to engage closely.
Another obvious answer, however, is to not enter into a partnership with a school at all, but to home educate instead. Home education might seem a radical step to take, but it does allow for an experience of childhood in which one’s key social relationships are established on a basis that is both intimate and personal.
There are plenty of websites that offer further information, and an upcoming day on the 30th September at the Birmingham Oratory about Catholic home education. Why not come along!
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