Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Menorah Grammar School (London) (CSWB 68)

Subject: Children and Social Work Bill:  New Clause 11

Committee Debate on Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) – Tuesday 10 January

 

We object in the strongest terms to the consultation on making Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) compulsory in all schools in the UK, primary and secondary, maintained and independent.

 

We argue, particularly as an independent school, that parents at Orthodox Jewish schools should be allowed to withdraw their children from SRE lessons if it conflicts with their religious principles or cultural traditions.  We do not object to this subject being taught, but our tradition does not support it being taught compulsorily through PSHE lessons according to a DfE -led curriculum which does not respect the sensitivities of our cultural mores and thousands of years of tradition.

 

We support all the governments’ reviews and decisions in 2011 and again as recently as 2016 to make PSHE a non-statutory subject.  Why change this policy just because of the pressure from wider secular thinking (and the likes of the Accord Coalition)?  While they continue to find faith schools to be ‘exclusive’, faith schools continue to be consistently among the best-performing schools in the UK.  In our school, almost all the fears that this draconian and insensitive legislation is trying to prevent – teenage pregnancies, sexting and poor preparation for adulthood, etc., are less prevalent, if non-existent.   

 

The main reasons for our objections to this proposal are as follows:

1.     PARENTAL CHOICE:   as an independent school our parents have chosen to come to Menorah Grammar School for its ethos and fusion of secular education and religious values and instruction.  Parents choose our school for its careful approach to SRE and do NOT support our presenting SRE openly to the students . I t would be a disservice to our governors, parent body and Rabbinic Authority to whom we have a duty and responsibility.  They established our school with a religious ethos that rejects compulsory SRE being imposed.  We strongly support the right of parents to be able to withdraw their children from SRE lessons.

2.     RELIGIOUS EDUCATION CURRICULUM:  we provide a comprehensive Jewish studies curriculum which includes much of the SRE agenda – preparing our boys for adult life using Biblical and Talmudic teachings to strengthen moral and sexual responsibility and respect for self, gender and community.  We believe that through this high level of moral education our pupils are well prepared for their role in society, respecting gend er and committed relationships .

3.     PARENTS EDUCATION:  the Jewish community’s model in relation to SRE is to educate and empower the  parents  with the necessary skills to inform their own children in the traditional Jewish way.  We do this in a variety of ways: through public lectures to parents, customised parent education programmes involving Rabbis and educators who are familiar with and respect our culture and ethos, and through personal mentoring via community parenting programmes and a range of culturally-suitable therapists and coaches.

We would therefore recommend an opt-out clause for Orthodox Jewish Faith Schools, that would include:

-            a commitment to include as many of the SRE agenda items as is permissible according to Orthodox Jewish rulings.

-           a framework to inform and educate parents/ carers of the issues, and their responsibilities in delivering parts of the SRE agenda that are permitted, but better off taught by parents.

-           Discussion groups for parents so that they can support each other

 

We trust that you will pass on our strong representation to members of the committee that will be debating this issue on Tuesday and ensure that you continue to support orthodox Jewish Faith schools in this regard if there are any further attempts to threaten our religious rights, and to change the status quo.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Neil Moir, Head Teacher

Allan Becker, Chair of Governors

January 2017

 

Prepared 9th January 2017