Children & Social Work Bill

Written evidence submitted by Keser Girls’ School, Gateshead (CSWB 70)

Written submission regarding the addition of New Clause 11 to the Children’s and Social Work Bill re Safeguarding: provision of personal, social and health education

1. I am the principal of Keser Girls’ School, an Orthodox Jewish primary school comprising over 350 pupils in Gateshead, North-East England.

2. I am profoundly concerned by the proposals to amend the provision of personal, social and health education in schools by making SRE compulsory for all schools. If this were to become law, it would remove parents’ right to make decisions about what they teach their own children – a right that has always been protected and enshrined in Britain.

3. I strongly believe that parents must be able to use their own wisdom, judgement and knowledge of their children to determine what to teach them, and when. Replacing the parents’ role in this, by forcing information on their children, is suggestive of Britain becoming a nanny state, deeming parents unsuited to their task.

4. Among other things, the Bill is being promoted as a means of reducing sexual violence, and lowering number of teenage pregnancies. It is important to understand that in Orthodox Jewish (OJ) families, the sexual relationship is regarded as a part of the mutually loving, respectful, secure and committed relationship of marriage. Children are taught about sex within this context, by their parents, at an age when their parents feel that they are ready for the information. Because we value marriage so highly, people in the OJ community do not engage in casual relationships – and indeed the number of pregnancies among OJ young women, occurring outside a stable marital relationship, is negligible.

5. Unfortunately, today, many children in the wider world are highly precocious. Surrounded by sexual messages in advertisements, films, and the general media – which frequently objectify women and hammer away at respect for women – children display unhealthy sexual awareness too early. Consequently, they have little opportunity to enjoy their childhood as children.

6. Overwhelmingly, OJ parents do not want their children to be exposed to such damaging messages about women and sexuality. They wish to ensure that their children do not become quasi-adults before they have the emotional and mental maturity to handle the challenges of adulthood. They therefore make their education and lifestyle choices accordingly. So, for example, every parent in our school has chosen to preclude television from their lives, to avoid their children’s exposure to messages that undermine their values. Children do not use the Internet until they have the maturity to handle it safely (not as young children), and once they have been taught about cyber security.

7. Parents are well aware of the range of today’s worrying issues – teenage pregnancies, sexual coercion, a lack of understanding about consent, pornography abuse etc. – but make every effort to safeguard their children from such exposure, and gradually introduce their children to the dangers they may encounter in their lives. In the same way as fire safety, medical safety, stranger danger, personal safety (i.e. unwanted touch) and cyber safety are all introduced either via parents or our school as children reach the appropriate level of maturity, parents use their wisdom, skill and knowledge of their children to teach their children about sex (including protecting themselves from sexual dangers) when they deem them to be ready.

8. Additionally, there is a high risk that introducing such knowledge to children at a time when such relationships are not part of their lives simply raises their interest and their desire to know more, and even to experiment – a dangerous potential result of compulsory SRE.

9. If this Bill becomes law, it will be almost impossible for our school – and indeed Orthodox Jewish schools across the country – to be Ofsted compliant in any future inspection.

10. I would ask you to ensure that the Bill maintains the status quo, allowing schools to opt out of SRE should they deem it necessary.

Mrs Rivka Springer, Principal of Keser Girls’ School

January 2017

 

Prepared 11th January 2017