From Miss Oona Stannard, chief executive and director of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales SIR – Misleading reports have recently appeared in The Catholic Herald regarding Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education, including Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in Catholic schools (Eric Hester, “How we lost control of sex education”, January 29). Such illinformed comments undermine the good work being done in our schools and cause unnecessary anxiety to parents and the Catholic community at large.
The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales is fully committed to the promotion of the sanctity of life, in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and we expect that all our schools promote this message to their pupils. We have every confidence that Catholic schools do this and promote the protection of life from conception through, for example: • determining what external parties operating on school premises can and cannot do, so that any information given is placed within the context of the Church’s teaching; • ensuring that SRE is taught in a manner appropriate to the Catholic ethos of the school; • promoting behaviour that is in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
During our extensive negotiations with Government over the plans to make PSHE part of the national curriculum, we have been clear that the right of schools with a religious character to teach SRE in accordance with the ethos of their school must be retained and we have been assured that this will be the case. The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, gave this assurance in the House of Commons on January 11 2010: “The decision to make sex and relationship education statutory is, I think, supported by all political parties, but it is essential that it is taught in line with the ethos, including the faith, of the school. That is clear in the legislation: it is clear that parents as well as school governors will have a say in how the subject is taught, while there is also a parental opt-out, which will apply to pupils until they are 15. I can thus give the hon Gentleman the complete assurance that the school will be in charge of how to teach SRE, but the fact of teaching it will be in law and guaranteed to all children.” We have every confidence that, if the Children, Schools and Families Bill is passed, making PSHE part of the national curriculum, Catholic schools will be entitled to continue to teach this subject in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church, and that the teaching of SRE in Catholic schools will always uphold the importance of the sanctity of life.
In a recent press briefing with The Catholic Herald all these points were clarified and explained.
Yours faithfully, OONA STANNARD London SW1 From Daphne McLeod, chairman of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice SIR – It was good to read Eric Hester’s article. This is the information every Catholic parent needs if they are to protect their children from the damaging classroom lessons about sex, given even at a very young age, that the Government is committed to.
Sadly, as he points out, we cannot rely on the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW), which should be protecting them, nor the bishops who have delegated their responsibility to the CESEW. This means parents must act themselves and exercise their right to withdraw their children from these lessons. They can explain that as Catholics they cannot in conscience agree to lessons which contravene the guidelines from the Vatican so seriously.
Furthermore, as Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP, who is in overall charge of Catholic education, has stated publicly that he sees no reason why teachers in Catholic schools should be living good Catholic lives in obedience to Church teaching (Report, January 22) these lessons could well be given by teachers who are not faithful to Catholic teaching, even teachers who are known to be living in same-sex civil partnerships, who will be unable to impart proper Catholic standards with any credibility.
One hopes that some Catholic schools will take advantage of the sex education programme recently compiled by Lancaster diocese called This Is My Body. This, by contrast, is fully in line with Vatican guidelines as it helps parents teach their child at home using material provided by the school. It is used throughout Lancaster diocese and also by other primary schools and can be obtained from Philos Educational Publishing, tel 020 8485 0543, or through [email protected]
Yours faithfully, DAPHNE MCLEOD Great Bookham, Surrey