From this September, all primary schools will be required to teach 'Relationships Education', from which there is no right for parents to withdraw their children. This is new, and the guidance about it says primary children should be taught that, 'Families of many forms provide a nurturing environment for children. (Families can include for example, single-parent families, LGBT parents, families headed by grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents/carers amongst other structures.)' And new requirements for Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools are also in place. The Government's guidance says: 'Pupils should receive teaching on LGBT relationships during their school years. We expect secondary schools to include LGBT content and whilst there is no specific requirement to teach about LGBT in primary schools, they can cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so. This would be delivered, for example, through teaching about different types of family, including those with same-sex parents.'
This constitutes a further significant erosion of freedom (for parents, children and teachers) and a further problem for Christian parents seeking to educate their children well.
So this Education Service I want to talk about the issues raised for us by this new sex and relationships education. So first let me remind us that:
1. According to the Bible, Parents Are the Primary Educators of Their Children
Would you turn in the Bibles to Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments. And look down to Exodus 20.12:
"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."
So in commandments one to four, God says how we're to relate to him – and then, in five to ten, how we're to relate to one another. And what's striking is that even before the sanctity of marriage ("You shall not commit adultery") and even before the sanctity of human life ("You shall not murder") comes the sanctity of the relationship between parents and children. Isn't that striking?
And that's partly because father and mother gave their children life in the first place, and so are their primary providers and protectors. But it's also because father and mother are their primary educators. That's the point of the end of verse 12:
"Honour your father and your mother, [and the reason is:] that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."
Because as God took his Old Testament people towards the promised land, he repeatedly said that they'd only enjoy his blessing on their life there if they lived in relationship with him. And that if they ignored him, they'd experience the opposite – his judgement.
So verse 12 says: fathers and mothers were the key to Israel enjoying life under the Lord's blessing, because they were the key to the next generation living in relationship with the Lord, because they were the ones who'd teach the next generation the word of the Lord.
That's why I've said that God means parents to be the primary educators of their children. (And even when they're not Christian and don't know the Bible, they still pass on some of what can be known about God, from being made in his image and understanding his creation-order.) And Christian parents don't carry that responsibility on their own, but in the context of a church family – where we need, and our children need, the help of others – single and married – as we bring them up.
So the home – and what we teach there by word and example – is the primary school. In that sense, we're all homeschoolers.
But then we have to choose whether to delegate our children's education to schools outside the home, or to become homeschoolers in the other sense. And that is a real option which, I think, parents should at least put on the table and, depending where the culture goes, keep on the table as a possible response.
And against the background of sex and relationships education, one thing we need to do from early on is to teach our children the clear Bible truths such as that there are only two genders – i.e., sexes – male and female; and such as what marriage is. And on that, can I say: take your children to Christian weddings, and use the opportunity to explain what marriage is from the Bible.
So let's teach our children the Bible on gender and marriage – and then when they meet other ideas out there in the culture, they'll already be processing them by that standard, that norm. Let's teach them what the Bible says love is – so that when they meet the idea that it's just a feeling or desire, they'll see through it. And don't wait for relationships education to tell them what friendship should and shouldn't be. Teach them Proverbs on friendship.
And in an age-appropriate way, aim for them to hear from you first about the facts of sex – even very minimally. I know we're now under pressure to do that earlier than we'd like because of the age-inappropriateness of the culture, and I don't have a one-line answer to that. Which is why we need to talk to one another and share parenting wisdom – and we're privileged to have the shared wisdom of this church family available to us.
Now teaching all of the above is easier if you have some kind of family Bible time – however basic or brief. We do ours on schooldays at breakfast – five minutes max. Secondary schooling will soon mean it'll probably move to the evening. But something regular means you can then include the things I've mentioned without it seeming like a 'bolt from the blue' that you're suddenly getting the family to look at the Bible because you're off to a wedding. And you could begin a family time like that by getting from the resources area one of the family Bible time books for the run-up to Easter – and then after Easter, keep going with something else (there are plenty of resources).
Would you now turn on in the Bible to Proverbs 6, which tells us that:
2. Parents Are to Teach Their Children How to Live Wisely within God's Creation Order
Proverbs 6.20-21, says:
"My son, keep your father's commandment,
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them round your neck."
And, as we've seen, the assumption is that the father will be passing on God's commandment, and the mother God's teaching.
And notice it's father and mother as equally vital educators. And if you are – or while you are – a full-time mother, you need to ignore the culture's message that only paid work has value, and that you should get back into full-time work asap. Because the lion's share of early teaching of Bible truths and values is often done by mothers – which is of incalculable value.
But back to Proverbs: the whole book rests on the truth that God is our Creator. From which come two big points.
One is that God therefore knows how life works – what will bless us if we do it and harm us if we do it. And so Proverbs constantly spells out consequences – good consequences if we live his way, bad consequences if we don't. So look on to verse 25, where the father says to his son that if a woman tempts him into adultery (and it could equally be a man tempting a woman), then verse 25:
"Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,
but a married woman hunts down a precious life."
In other words, it will have serious, life-changing consequences.
But the other big point is that we're part of a created order which we can't escape. So we really are either male or female. And heterosexual relations really are normal and natural. And heterosexual marriage really does create a one-flesh bond where unfaithfulness really will be profoundly harmful. And we can't be the exception to those creation-order rules – any more than we can jump off the Tyne Bridge hoping to be the exception to the creation-order rule of gravity. So look on to verse 27:
"Can a man carry fire next to his chest
and his clothes not be burned?
Or can one walk on hot coals
and his feet not be scorched?"
No, because it's the very nature of fire to burn, and you can't escape that. Just like it's the very nature of all sex outside heterosexual marriage to harm, and you can't escape that, either (although, praise God, we can be forgiven for all our sexual mistakes and misbehaviour).
And yet we live in a culture where creation-order is being denied, where calling the heterosexual married family normal is treated as being hateful, where people are being told to create their own realities – for example, their own gender – and where the real and dire consequences of the sexual revolution are being suppressed by politicians, academics, educators and the media.
And in the face of all that, it's our job to teach our children to live wisely within God's creation order.
And yet none of us has done that without constant failure in every area of life, so central to doing that is teaching and modelling how to find constant forgiveness through Jesus and his death on the cross.
Now Proverbs sounds like it was written against a homeschooling background. Which may be true – although in the later time before Jesus, the Jews did have schools. But they were obviously operating under a Bible world view, which is a far cry from the State education that is the Hobson's choice for most of us. So onto the next thing to say:
3. The State Doesn't Own Our Children or Have the Right to Educate Them
Would you turn on in the Bible to Mark 12.14. And part way through that verse, the people trying to trap Jesus into a politically dangerous statement ask this:
"'Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar [ie, the Roman Government, the State], or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?' But, knowing their hypocrisy, [Jesus] said to them, 'Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.' And they brought one. And he said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to him, 'Caesar's.' Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they marvelled at him."
So to a question about taxation, Jesus gives an answer about our whole relationship to the State. And he says: where we owe God-given government something legitimate in God's eyes, we should give it, or render it. For example, taxes.
But he says: we ultimately owe God – his Father and him – first allegiance. Which means we're only to give to the State – in taxes or obedience or whatever – what is legitimate in God's eyes. Whereas, like Home Groups are seeing in the book of Daniel, if the State commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands, God is to be obeyed, not the State.
So how does that apply to education?
Well, the State requires that we educate our children. And that's legitimate. But it doesn't require us to send them to a school. Unlike other countries such as Germany, our State allows homeschooling. At least for now. That freedom, too, may be removed.
And the State also allows independent schools (although they're losing independence – not least through the imposition of the new sex and relationships legislation on them, too).
And the State also allows faith schools – like the local Church of England ones, Catholic ones and the Emmanual Schools Foundation ones. And can I say that, just like I think parents should at least put homeschooling on the table as an option, so Catholic schools should also be on the table. Because the overlap between your world view and theirs is enormous, and you can help your children process the Catholic ideas they meet which aren't in the Bible. So Tess and I did look at a Catholic Primary school, where I was delighted to find that the RE teacher was called Mrs Pope.
But having said what the State still allows, the State (whether Labour or Tory) has become much bigger and more totalitarian, so it's more important than ever to remember that it doesn't own our children or have the right to educate them. And where we do delegate their education to schools, the State doesn't have the right to teach them whatever it wants, regardless of what we want. And every parent here needs to get up to speed with the new sex and relationships legislation, and with areas of law and human rights which are on our side.
So for a start, can I suggest we need to read: Equipped for equality – a guide from The Christian Institute on what schools can and can't do in the name of equality and human rights. And can I say: 'we' isn't just parents, it's all of us, if we care for children whether or not we have any, and care what kind of society this will be in another generation's time. So let me quote from the introduction:
This guide sets out to debunk the myths surrounding what schools... are required to do because of the Equality Act. One myth is that this legislation gives LGBT rights supremacy over all other rights. But [it doesn't]...
Later, the guide explains our legal position in relation to State education. It says:
"State schools are under a legal duty to provide education without indoctrinating children or seeking to recruit them to any cause or campaign."
It then explains that the UK is signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights (which has nothing to do with being in or out of the EU). And one part of it says:
"In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."
And so the European Court of Human Rights has said:
"The State [including state-funded schools] is forbidden to pursue an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents' religious and philosophical convictions."
And that applies to sex and relationships education.
But, as you know, there are plenty of people who want to use another law – the disastrous Equality Act of 2010 – to push through their sexual revolution. And like all revolutionaries, groups such as Stonewall and Educate and Celebrate know that the number one institution standing in their way is the family – because the family is the primary school, where truths and values are passed on. So, like all revolutionaries, they know that the best way to change society is to bypass the adults and get straight at the children. And that's why they've worked over the last 50 years to occupy the positions of power, and to change the law so that they can use education for their purposes.
So for example, just listen to this quote from Andrew Moffatt, the author of the No Outsiders program, who was at the centre of the Birmingham school outcry:
"The key thing we hope to achieve is for our students to want to live in a diverse Britain [by which he means: a Britain where people accept the whole diversity of sexual relationships as equally good]. We can't be simply telling children that their beliefs are wrong or unacceptable [so notice his assumption: our children's beliefs are wrong and unacceptable. But he says that his campaign can't simply tell them that; instead:] We have to be delivering a curriculum that enables children to understand the benefits of a society where diversity and difference are celebrated [i.e., where every sexual behaviour is affirmed]. Furthermore, we need the children to want to be part of that society – and we have to sell it to them, as that desire may not come naturally by itself."
Which of course it won't – because children made in the image of God have a natural (though fallen) sense of right and wrong and of creation-order and of shame – and Andrew Moffatt and his like will have to work hard to corrupt that and make them think differently. It's the language of the indoctrinator, isn't it?
And that illustrates the special danger of groups (like No Outsiders or Stonewall or Educate & Celebrate) going into schools to deliver bespoke teaching in this area. Because why do they want access to your children? To bypass you, and further the revolution.
Let me wrap up by saying:
4. We Must Actively Take Responsibility for Our Children's Welfare in This Area
When my parents sent me off to school, they could assume that before teenage years, I'd be exposed to nothing more than a slightly grainy information film about rabbits having baby rabbits – which I was. Now that I'm sending my children off, it would be irresponsible to assume anything other than that Tess and I need to be vigilant about this area in their schooling.
And we all need to be vigilant: in finding out schools' policies on this when choosing schools; in being part of consultation and review processes in our children's schools; and in knowing what's going on in them and challenging what's unlawful. One of Stonewall's tactics has been to make schools feel watched for not keeping the law. And schools need to feel equally watched by Christians, too.
There's too much detail that we need to know for a talk like this. So in the spirit of an Education Service, let me suggest some homework.
Suggestion 1 is to re-read the transcript of this once it's on the website. And I'll add at the end the briefing I wrote for being involved in consultations at schools.
Suggestion 2 is to read The Christian Institute's booklet, Equipped for Equality – which is available from the resources area at the back. And coming soon is another booklet called: Relationships and Sex Education: A Guide for Christian Parents in England. (And can I say: we really need The Christian Institute, so let's pray for it and pay for it.) They're also working on a booklet on the employment rights of teachers in relation to all this. And we need Christians to go into teaching and stick in there despite the growing challenges. So can I just acknowledge: I've not covered that – not because I'm unaware of it, but because less is more in a talk like this.
Two recommendations for bigger readers: one is What Are They Teaching the Children? (ed Lynday Rose) which, as the blurb says, 'exposes how state education in Britain has become a vehicle for promoting secular beliefs about religion, morality and the family, while over-riding the wishes of parents.' And the other is: The Global Sexual Revolution: Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom (by Gabriele Kuby) which explains the history of the sexual revolution, how the sexual revolutionaries have been so successful, how it's a global thing, and how some fight-backs have begun.
So let me end by reading what Gabriele Kuby says at the end of that book:
"If you now feel you understand our times more clearly, and are asking, 'What can I do?' then [reading this] has been worth it. If that question is pressing enough, you will find an answer."
It is always the individual who gets things moving – for better or worse, however small or large the scale. Some people have special responsibilities and influence, but everyone can make his or her own contribution to the good of the cause. And at the advanced stage of sexual deregulation we are now in, we will all need courage to do that.
Appendix: briefing on being involved in consultation processes within schools:
Relationships Education in Primary Schools
Key points from the meeting on Sunday 7 July 2019
The meeting on Sunday covered changes that have just been announced about both primary and secondary schools. This document is just about the changes coming to primary schools. The aim of it is to help you write to your child(ren)'s primary school by the end of this term (see red sections below).
- Primary schools have had the freedom to cover Sex Education – but they are not required to, and in practice few do. If primary schools do any Sex Education lessons, parents have the automatic right to withdraw their children.
- What is new to primary schools is the introduction of 'Relationships Education'. The Government's Statutory Guidance about this can be found here:
- Pages 19-23 tell you what primary Relationships Education will cover. It includes teaching about 'families' and paragraph 59 says, for example: 'Families of many forms provide a nurturing environment for children. (Families can include for example, single parent families, LGBT parents, families headed by grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents/carers amongst other structures.)' This permits LGBT content to be taught (see page 15, paragraphs 36-37, as well). The Guidance says that children need to be taught about the different 'families' and 'relationships' in the world around them, and about UK laws (which now include 'same-sex marriage' and civil partnerships).
- There is no parental right to withdraw your primary child from Relationships Education.
- All primary schools must implement the Guidance on Relationships Education by September 2020. Some 'early adopter' schools will begin to from this September.
- Page 11, paragraph 13 says, 'All schools must have in place a written policy for Relationships Education… Schools must consult parents in developing and reviewing their policy.' So the immediate need is for parents to communicate with their children's schools about this. Your child(ren)'s school should be enabling consultation (eg, through meetings, inviting responses to draft plans). If it is not, or you question the adequacy of it, you need to contact the school and raise your concern. Whether or not your child's school is enabling consultation right now, we urge you to write to your school's Headteacher with your concerns and questions before the end of this term. That is because it is vital that your Headteacher hears your concerns early on, and preferably first.
- In communicating with the school, we suggest:
- Asking them to outline their plans for Relationships Education, and how they will communicate and consult with parents
- Asking them who will teach Relationships Education – and will any outside teachers/groups be involved?
- Asking them how frequently it will be taught, in what format, whether outside materials will be used (if so which?), and how parents will be told in advance of what is going to be taught
- Asking them how they will deal with questions and comments from children – eg, if in a lesson about 'family' a child raises the question of 'why some children have two mummies', will that be answered to the whole class, or answered privately? And, eg, if your child says, 'It's right/best for people to be married', how will they be treated?
In addition, the Guidance says, 'all of the compulsory subject content must be age… and developmentally appropriate. It must be taught sensitively and inclusively, with respect to the backgrounds and beliefs of pupils and parents' (page 4) and, 'the religious background of all pupils must be taken into account when planning teaching, so that the topics that are included in the core content in this guidance are appropriately handled. Schools must ensure they comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010, under which religion or belief are amongst the protected characteristics' (page 12, paragraph 20).
So in communicating with the school, we also suggest:
- Making it clear that you are a Christian, bringing your child(ren) up in the Christian faith and that the school should not undermine the beliefs on marriage and sex which you and your child(ren) hold.
(This last point is supported by the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that, 'In the exercise of any function which it assumes in relation to education and teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions' (Article 2, Protocol 1). This does not mean we can require our State schools to teach every single belief we want our children to hear; but the Christian Institute advises that it does mean that State schools should not undermine fundamental matters of religious belief such as the nature of marriage and sex.
- Finally, we suggest you read the DofE FAQ page about the Guidance, here:
Among other things, this says: 'Pupils should receive teaching on LGBT relationships during their school years. We expect secondary schools to include LGBT content and whilst there is no specific requirement to teach about LGBT in primary schools, they can cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so. This would be delivered, for example, through teaching about different types of family, including those with same sex parents.' So note that primary schools are not required to teach any LGBT content. But remember that many who have campaigned for these changes (like Stonewall) have done so because they do want to see LGBT promoted in schools, and we must realise that people will want to use this Guidance to make that happen.
- If you attend a parents' meeting about this at your children's school we suggest:
- Prepare the main things you want to say (have them written down, to help you)
- Speak first if you can
- Remember some people may strongly disagree with you – but the important thing is that the Headteacher hears your beliefs and concerns as clearly as others'
- Remember there will be 'silent supporters' among the parent body who are glad that you are voicing the same concerns they have
9 July 2019