In this issue…
- General Election 2019: The parties and the family
- Gender identity and sexual orientation to feature in Census for first time
- Countdown to September 2020
- All About Me Relationships Education programme mired in controversy
- All About Me – why the fuss?
- All About Me and the right of parental withdrawal
- A ‘shameful day’ for Northern Ireland
- Consultation on a new legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland
- Social engineering and the BBC
- John Humphrys on transgender issues
- Concerns mount over transgender ideology
- Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers
- Association between adolescent use of contraceptive pill and depressive symptoms
- ‘Unpopular, illiberal and unworkable’ named person scheme scrapped
- Equipped for Equality
- AGM & Conference 2020
In a section on ‘vulnerable children’, the Conservative Party manifesto states: ‘A strong society needs strong families’. It goes on to commit to improving the Troubled Families programme and championing Family Hubs ‘to serve vulnerable families with the intensive, integrated support they need to care for children – from the early years and throughout their lives’.
While in 2015 the Conservatives committed themselves to ‘backing the institution of marriage in our society’ by retaining the transferable tax allowance between married spouses and undertaking to ensure that ‘the transferable amount will always rise at least in line with the Personal Allowance’, the only reference to marriage this time around appears in a statement of opposition to forced marriage in a section headed ‘Supporting all victims of crime’.
This section of the manifesto also contains a pledge to ‘protect people from physical attack or harassment whether for their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability’, and to ‘vigorously combat harassment and violence against all religious groups, and against LGBT people’.
The only other explicit reference to LGBT issues appears in a section headed ‘Promoting our values’, which includes a commitment to supporting ‘marginalised communities in the developing world, hosting the UK government’s first ever international LGBT conference’.
The Conservative manifesto states:
‘Raising a family should be the most fulfilling experience of your life. But for too many parents, the costs of childcare are a heavy burden. We want to give parents the freedom, support and choice to look after their children in the way that works best for them. We will establish a new £1 billion fund to help create more high quality, affordable childcare, including before and after school and during the school holidays.’
A government headed by Boris Johnson would ‘continue to ensure that parents can choose the schools that best suit their children and best prepare them for the future’ and would ‘continue to build more free schools’.
On the role of Ofsted and bullying in schools, the manifesto states:
‘Unlike Labour, we believe that Ofsted inspection serves a valuable purpose not just in improving standards but in improving behaviour. We will continue to help teachers tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying. No child should be bullied on account of who their parents are or where they come from.’
In order to help those looking after family members, ‘especially women’, a Conservative administration would ‘support the main carer in any household receiving the Universal Credit payment’. Elsewhere in the manifesto the party explains that its support for the main carer receiving Universal Credit ‘will help give greater independence to individuals, most often women, trapped with coercive partners’.
There is also a commitment to continuing to use the tax and benefits system to reduce poverty, including child poverty. The manifesto asserts:
‘Children should grow up in an environment with no limits to their potential – which is one of the reasons we are making it a priority to put more money in the pockets of low-paid workers and maintaining our commitment to free school meals.’
Under a Conservative government the Domestic Abuse Bill, which passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 2 October, would continue its passage through Parliament.
The manifesto also contains a commitment to ‘increase support for refuges and community support for victims of rape and sexual abuse’ and to ‘pilot integrated domestic abuse courts that address criminal and family matters in parallel’.
The Conservatives would ‘legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online – protecting children from online abuse and harms, protecting the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content, and ensuring there is no safe space for terrorists to hide online’. At the same time, however, it would seek to defend freedom of expression and, in particular, recognise and defend ‘the invaluable role of a free press’.
In a section on breaking the cycle of reoffending, the Conservative manifesto states:
‘Drug addiction fuels crime, violence and family breakdown – and new dangerous substances are driving an increase in deaths from drug abuse. We will tackle drug-related crime, and at the same time take a new approach to treatment so we can reduce drug deaths and break the cycle of crime linked to addiction.’
A Conservative government would ‘want to look at more radical ways to support working families in the UK’. The manifesto notes that ‘our lifestyles have been transformed over the last four decades’, with many families today having two working parents who are juggling work and other responsibilities. Particular concern is expressed about the way that caring responsibilities can have a big impact on the careers of women and limit their participation in the workplace.
The Conservatives would introduce ‘a raft of measures that balance the needs of employees and employers’, including:
● encouraging flexible working and consulting on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to;
● legislating to allow parents to take extended leave for neonatal care;
● making it easier for fathers to take paternity leave;
● extending the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers, the majority of whom are women, to a week;
● funding more high-quality childcare before and after school and during the holidays so that working parents do not have to choose between their careers and their children.
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In the section of its manifesto on social security, the Labour Party states a commitment to ‘put children at the heart of everything we do’ But it equally pledges that women, inclusion and LGBT+ equality would be ‘at the heart’ of a Labour government’s programme. In spelling out what it would mean for children to be at the centre of the Party’s agenda, the manifesto refers to ‘developing a cross-governmental National Strategy for Childhood focusing on health, security, wellbeing and poverty’ and ‘giving effect’ to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Labour manifesto contains only two references to marriage and both relate to same-sex marriage. It boasts that ‘only with Labour votes could equal marriage become law’ and promises that: ‘A Labour government will fully implement new laws on equal marriage in Northern Ireland so that same-sex couples are no longer treated as second-class citizens.’ There is also a pledge to ‘introduce a no-fault divorce procedure’.
Labour would ‘uphold women’s reproductive rights and decriminalise abortions’ and would ensure that women in Northern Ireland have access to abortions in the Province.
A Labour government would ‘rebuild early intervention services and replace the Troubled Families programme with a Stronger Families programme, refocused on long-term support to reduce the risk of children going into care’.
Early years provision
The Labour manifesto pledges to ‘reverse cuts to Sure Start and create a new service, Sure Start Plus, with enough centres to provide a genuinely universal service, available in all communities, focused on the under-2s’. Paid maternity leave would be extended to 12 months, and within five years, all 2, 3 and 4-year-olds would be entitled to 30 hours of free preschool education per week with access to additional hours at affordable, subsidised rates staggered with incomes.
Labour would pay childcare costs up front so that parents are not forced to turn down work or get into debt to pay for childcare. A Labour government would also work to extend childcare provision for 1-year-olds and to ensure that childcare provision accommodates the working patterns of all parents.
According to the Labour manifesto, ‘The narrowing curriculum is denying many children access to modern languages, arts and music, or technical and engineering skills that will be essential in a world shaped by climate change.’
A government headed by Jeremy Corbyn would ‘review the curriculum to ensure that it enriches students and covers subjects such as black history, and continues to teach issues like the Holocaust. Pupils will learn both the science of climate and environmental emergency, and the skills necessary to deal with them.’
In the view of the Labour Party, ‘The academies system is over-centralised, inefficient and undemocratic. Parents, communities and even teachers are shut out of decisions about schools and vulnerable children are being let down.’
All schools would be subject to a common rulebook, set out in legislation, and local authorities would take responsibility for the delivery of education and support for young people
Ofsted would be replaced and a new body created to take responsibility for inspections.
Tax loopholes enjoyed by elite private schools would be closed and the money used to improve the lives of all children. The Social Justice Commission would advise on integrating private schools and creating a comprehensive education system.
Free school meals would be introduced for all primary school children, and breakfast clubs would be encouraged.
A Labour government would target a reduction in health inequalities with a comprehensive children’s health strategy, and recruit 4,500 more health visitors and school nurses. It would increase mandated health visits, ensure access to breastfeeding support for new mothers and introduce mental health assessments in a maternal health check six weeks after the birth of a child.
Labour would invest in children’s oral health, tackle childhood obesity, extend the sugar tax to milk drinks, ban fast-food restaurants near schools and enforce stricter rules around the advertising of junk food and levels of salt in food.
A £845 million plan for Healthy Young Minds would more than double the annual spending on children and adolescent mental health services, and every child would have guaranteed access to a school counsellor.
Labour would reduce the voting age to 16 (as would the Liberal Democrats and the Greens).
A Labour government would enforce a legal duty of care to protect children online, impose fines on companies that fail on online abuse and empower the public with a Charter of Digital Rights.
Labour is committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for transgender people, and would ‘eliminate remaining areas of discrimination [against LGBT+ people] in law’. A Jeremy Corbyn government would:
● ensure that public services are LGBT+ inclusive and deliver on the national LGBT Action Plan;
● take steps to safeguard LGBT+ rights both inside and outside the EU;
● provide sufficient funding for schools to deliver mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education;
● fully fund sexual health services and roll out PrEP medication;
● respond fast and firmly wherever LGBT+ people face violence or persecution internationally and appoint a dedicated global ambassador to the Foreign Office on LGBT+ issues.
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Near the beginning of a chapter on ‘Our Plan to Build a Fair Society’, the Liberal Democrat manifesto asserts that:
‘The Conservatives have intentionally designed the welfare system for a traditional family with a main breadwinner and two children, which is entirely out of step with the modern world. Labour have a nostalgic attachment to a nine-to-five working life that does not suit modern life either, as increasingly households have two earners and people want to be able to work flexibly.’
In response, the Liberal Democrats propose to introduce reforms to the welfare system, to include ‘tackling child poverty by removing the two-child limit and the benefits cap’ and ‘making work pay by increasing work allowances and introducing a second earner work allowance’.
Apart from a pledge to ‘scrap the Marriage Tax Allowance’ and to introduce legal recognition of humanist marriages, the only other references to marriage in the manifesto relate to same-sex and transgender marriage. A Liberal Democrat government would:
Complete the introduction of equal marriage, by:
– Removing the spousal veto.*
– Allowing those marriages that were dissolved solely due to the Gender Recognition process to be retrospectively restored.
– Enabling the Church of England and Church in Wales to conduct same-sex marriages.
It would also introduce a right to no-fault divorce.
Liberal Democrats would ‘extend limited legal rights to cohabiting couples, for example, to give them greater protection in the event of separation or a partner’s death.
The manifesto states:
We believe that everyone has a right to make independent decisions over their reproductive health without interference by the state, and that access to reproductive healthcare is a human right. We will:
● Decriminalise abortion across the UK while retaining the existing 24-week limit and legislate for access to abortion facilities within Northern Ireland.
● Enforce safe zones around abortion clinics, make intimidation or harassment of abortion service users and staff outside clinics, or on common transport routes to these services, illegal.
● Fund abortion clinics to provide their services free of charge to service users regardless of nationality or residency.
A Jo Swinson government would provide free childcare for all children with parents in full-time work (35 hours per week, 48 weeks per year) aged between nine and 24 months, and for all children from the age of two years, up to the time they start school.
£1 billion a year would be invested in Children’s Centres to support families and tackle inequalities in children’s health, development and life chances, and the Early Years Pupil Premium would be tripled (to £1,000) to give extra help to disadvantaged children who are at risk of falling behind from the very beginning of their education.
The Liberal Democrats would introduce a ‘curriculum for life’ in all state-funded schools, to include Personal, Social and Health Education, financial literacy, environmental awareness, first aid and emergency lifesaving skills, mental health education, citizenship and age-appropriate Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content would be included in RSE.
Ofsted would be replaced with a new HM Inspector of Schools. Inspections would consider a broader range of factors including the social and emotional development of children, and the wellbeing of staff and pupils. Schools would have a statutory duty to promote the wellbeing of their pupils as part of the inspection framework. Independent schools would be subject to the same inspection regime.
An independent body of education experts would be established to use the most up-to-date educational evidence to oversee any future curriculum changes.
Bullying, including bullying on the basis of gender, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression, would be tackled by promoting pastoral leadership in schools and delivering high-quality sex and relationships education.
The ‘curriculum for life’ would include teaching about how to use social media responsibly and provide advice and support for parents on how to help their children protect themselves online.
Education and Gender
A Liberal Democrat government would ‘require inclusive school uniform policies that are gender-neutral and flexible enough to suit different budgets, and provide training for school staff on how to review and improve their uniform policies’. It would also ‘challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to promote positive body image and break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects.’
A government headed by Jo Swinson would ‘address continuing inequalities in health services access faced by same-sex couples, and continue to improve LGBT+ healthcare overall’. It would also ‘ensure accurate population data on sexual orientation and gender identity by including a question on LGBT+ status within the 2021 Census’ and require all companies with more than 250 employees to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.
The Liberal Democrats would legislate to allow all-BAME and all-LGBT+ shortlists and ‘develop a comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world and advancing LGBT+ rights’.
They are committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act to ‘remove the requirement for medical reports, scrap the fee and recognise non-binary gender identities’ and would also introduce an ‘X’ gender option on passports and extend equality law to cover gender identity and expression.
* Under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, the partner of a married or civil partnered transsexual person is required to give written permission before a Gender Recognition Certificate can be issued.
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The SNP’s manifesto for the 2019 Westminster election had not been published when we went to press, but the following policies feature on its website.
The SNP is committed to further expanding the provision of free childcare and early learning for vulnerable two year-olds and all three and four year-olds..
The SNP is strongly opposed to the restriction of tax credits to a maximum of two children for any new claimants unless a woman can demonstrate that a third or subsequent child was born as a result of rape.
The SNP states that Scotland’s same-sex marriage legislation is viewed by many as one of the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world because of the provisions on gender identity and gender reassignment equality. The party is now committed to build on this to do more to progress equality for trans people.
It is committed to reviewing and reforming gender recognition law, so that it is in line with international best practice for people who are transgender or intersex. SNP MPs will additionally press the UK government to allow non-binary people to record their gender as ‘X’ on passports and all other UK-wide records and identity documents
The SNP will also campaign for intersex people and organisations to be fully consulted on changes to the law and policy to introduce effective protections for their human rights.
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Plaid Cymru’s manifesto makes no reference to cohabitation, marriage or divorce, but one of its five key priorities is to offer a fair deal for families. This would include:
● £35 a week for every child in low income families.
● Universal free childcare for children aged between one and three for 40 hours a week.
● The imposition of statutory targets for reducing child poverty.
Plaid Cymru plans to use schools as family support hubs, with multi-agency early intervention for vulnerable children and their families from birth. A new school curriculum would aim to ‘foster a good understanding of mental health and wellbeing… with more time earmarked for physical activity, as well as provision for lessons on healthy relationships, citizenship, children’s rights and Welsh identity’.
The party believes that ‘LGBTQI+ voices and experiences need to be heard and affirmed… [and] schools in Wales will be required to keep a register of bullying incidents related to sexuality. It plans to promote LGBT participation in sport and ‘work with clubs and organisations to reduce homophobic, transphobic and sexist behaviour’.
Plaid Cymru will ‘support the reform of the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a streamlined, de-medicalised process [and] will support efforts to reform the Equality Act to include “gender identity” as a protected characteristic and to remove the use of the terms “gender reassignment” and “transsexual” from the Act’.
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The Green Party manifesto states a commitment to:
● Extend the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights to give women in all EU countries access to legal, safe and affordable abortion services.
● Provide 35 hours a week of free childcare for all, from the age of nine months.
● Ensure that all forms of birth control are free and that PrEP – a daily pill which prevents HIV infection – is provided by NHS England without delay.
● Increase funding for areas of the NHS heavily relied on by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Asexual (LGBTIQA+) people, including trans healthcare, gender identity clinics, HIV treatment and mental health provision.
● Properly fund training to support the delivery of comprehensive, age-appropriate Personal Health and Sexual Education (PHSE) lessons in schools covering all aspects of sex and relationships, with a focus on consent.
● End the parental opt-out from LGBTIQA+ inclusive PHSE classes at school to ensure that every child learns about different types of couples and families that make up UK society.
● Remove the spousal veto so that married trans people can acquire their gender recognition certificate without having to obtain permission from their spouse.
● Change the law so an ‘X’ gender marker can be added to passports for non-binary and intersex people who wish to use it, and update the Gender Recognition Act to allow trans youth and non-binary people to get legal recognition through self-declaration.
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In a short section devoted to ‘Children and Families’, UKIP’s interim manifesto states that: ‘Stable, active and intact two-parent families are the bedrock of a robust society, whereas broken families are much more likely to be dependent on the state, have poorer physical and mental health and contribute less to wider society.’
The manifesto sets out the following policies:
● Opposition to ‘gender confusion ideologies and the implementation of compulsory LGBT-inclusive relationships education in primary schools’.
● Opposition to ‘the disempowerment of parents by the state, whereby its institutions are increasingly dictating the norms and values children learn and supplanting the role of parents… [T]he education system is being used more as a means of indoctrination than education.’
● The introduction of further safeguards into the operation of the Family Courts to ensure that injustices are not perpetrated on parents.
● The abolition of inheritance tax.
● The protection of freedom of conscience and speech. UKIP would scrap ‘hate speech’ guidelines, repeal the Equality Act 2010 and close down the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Government Equalities Office.
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In its ‘Contract with the People’, the Brexit Party says nothing about marriage and very little about the family or education. It does, however, propose to expand parental choice in education, to protect free speech in universities and to abolish inheritance tax, which it describes as a ‘grief tax’ levied at a time of family distress.
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The Office for National Statistics is proposing to allow respondents to the 2021 Census to record their sex as different from what is shown on their birth certificate. Also, for the first time, respondents will be asked ‘voluntary’ questions about their gender identity and sexual orientation.
During autumn 2019, ONS has been conducting a rehearsal for the 2021 Census in four local authorities in England and Wales (Carlisle, Ceredigion, Hackney and Tower Hamlets) in order to test its systems and processes.
As in every previous census since 1801, respondents will be asked ‘What is your sex?’ and asked to select either ‘Female’ or ‘Male’. Although this question will be mandatory, ONS states that:
‘for those whose gender is different from their sex registered at birth, who may find the question difficult to answer, the answer they provide does not need to be the same as their birth certificate’.
The guidance notes which have been prepared for the rehearsal advise residents of England and Wales completing the form:
‘If you are one or more of non-binary, transgender, have variations of sex characteristics, sometimes also known as intersex, the answer you give can be different from what is on your birth certificate.
‘If you’re not sure how to answer, use the sex registered on your official documents, such as passport or driving licence, or whichever answer best describes your sex.
‘A later question gives the option to tell us if your gender is different from your sex registered at birth, and, if different, to record your gender.’
Gender and orientation
Respondents aged 16 or over are subsequently asked two optional questions: ‘Is your gender the same as the sex you were registered at birth?’ (Response options: Yes, No, Write in gender), and ‘Which of the following best describes your sexual orientation?’
In response to the latter question, respondents are told:
‘You can choose from the following options:
‘Heterosexual or Straight’ means that a person is attracted to people of the opposite sex
‘Gay or Lesbian’ means that a person is attracted to people of the same sex
‘Bisexual’ means that a person is attracted to more than one sex
‘Other sexual orientation’ – enter your answer, for example, pansexual or asexual.’
ONS states that the questions on the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation have undergone rigorous testing. An initial draft of the guidance for the questions on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation was shared with stakeholders in May 2019.
The national statistical institute revealed that:
‘A wide range of stakeholders representing lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people, trans people, women and those with variations of sex characteristics, sometimes also known as intersex, and data users such as local and central government were invited to provide their expert view on the guidance.’
It went on to report that:
‘The updated guidance was cognitively tested with 23 respondents who were purposively recruited (that is, based on their characteristics). The following characteristics were represented in the sample: transgender male and transgender female; intersex; people with variations in sex characteristics; non-binary; gender-queer; queer; bisexual; pansexual; gay; lesbian; cisgender male and cisgender female; participants who were categorised as “potential objectors” (those who may object to the inclusion of questions on gender).’
Dr Julie Maxwell, an NHS paediatrician and a Family Education Trust trustee has expressed concern that the proposed option for respondents to provide data at variance with their biological sex could skew official statistics. She commented:
‘Almost every kind of illness behaves differently in men and women. If the national statistics are skewed in this way so you don’t know how many biological men or women there are, and if you add on to that the fact people are already changing their sex on medical records, you lose any meaningful knowledge of how often health problems are occurring in men and women.’1
1. Mail on Sunday, 15 September 2019.
● ONS, Guidance for questions on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation for the 2019 Census Rehearsal for the 2021 Census, September 2019.
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In preparation for the introduction of statutory Relationships Education in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in all secondary schools from September 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) is currently investing £6 million in developing a programme of support for schools.
In response to a Parliamentary Question, the Schools Minister Nick Gibb stated that the DfE is working with schools, teachers and sector experts to give teachers ‘access to a central programme of support that will focus on tools to enhance practice and teacher confidence, including an implementation guide, access to high-quality resources, and training that can be delivered online and face to face’. Mr Gibb explained that the support package, to be available from Spring 2020, ‘will enable the delivery of the entire statutory guidance including areas such as consent, HIV, sexual health and mental health’.1
To support this ongoing work, the DfE has convened a new working group to provide insight into how the new guidance is working in practice. This group, chaired by headteacher and government adviser Ian Bauckham, consists of representatives from teaching unions, sector experts, faith and minority groups, parents and young people. Membership of the group and its terms of reference will be published in due course.
LGBT in primary schools
A number of parliamentarians and lobby groups have been pressing ministers to be more prescriptive about the need for primary schools to cover LGBT content in Relationships Education.
However, Mr Gibb has defended the government’s position of ‘strongly encouraging and enabling’ primary schools to address LGBT issues while not mandating it. The Minister declared: ‘I do not believe that had we been…more prescriptive we would have secured consensus among major school providers in both the state and the private sector.’
Meanwhile, with the support of education publisher Pearson and funding from the Government Equalities Office, Stonewall have produced a guide to Creating an LGBT-Inclusive Primary Curriculum. The guide suggests activities to be used in every subject across the entire curriculum.3
1. HC Written question 1681, 22 October 2019.
2. HC Deb, 16 July 2019, col. 713.
3. Stonewall, Creating an LGBT-Inclusive Primary Curriculum, November 2019.
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Warwickshire County Council has taken down pages devoted to its Relationships Education programme All About Me following widespread concerns about the nature of the curriculum. The controversial programme, developed by the Council’s Respect Yourself team, attracted adverse publicity after it was reported that parents had withdrawn their children from a Warwickshire primary school for a week during which the material was used intensively during an hour-long lesson each day.1 The section of the Warwickshire County Council website previously devoted to All About Me now states: ‘This area of the website is currently under review’.
Matthew and Naomi Seymour withdrew their two sons from Coten End Primary School in Warwick out of concern that the programme was sexualising children. They commented that:
‘The scheme teaches and encourages transgender thinking and behaviour in children from reception (age 4). Sex education begins in year 1 (age 5), same-sex relationships are normalised from the start and masturbation is encouraged in years 2 (age 6), 4 (age 8) and 5 (age 9). We were concerned to see a number of subtle attempts to disconnect children from parental care and input. It was also alarming to find no positive teaching on marriage anywhere in the scheme.’2
Concerns regarding the All About Me programme were raised in the House of Commons by Mark Pawsey, the Conservative MP for Rugby, who argued that the material went ‘well beyond statutory guidance’. He stressed that ‘it is important that parents are reassured that what their children are taught in school is age-appropriate’ and requested a statement from the Education Secretary on the appropriateness of the Warwickshire scheme.
On behalf of the government, the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg responded:
‘I have read about this, and it is quite rightly a cause of controversy if schools give children messages that their parents are not happy with. I fully sympathise with my hon. Friend’s concerns…
‘Schools should not go off and do things that leave parents concerned about what their children are being taught, and I am glad to say that we do not have that sort of approach in this country. I share his concerns and will ensure that they are brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.’3
Warwickshire County Council has said that it is reviewing the lessons in the light of the comments it has received and has taken down the website as part of that process. However, a spokesman for the authority defended the lessons, maintaining that the resources are ‘fully researched, evidence-based and in line with the Department for Education guidelines’. The Council also asserted that in addition to the 83 schools already using the materials, 41 more had signed up for All About Me training.4
Going Off the Rails
An independent sex education consultant who has been closely involved with the development of the All About Me programme has criticised the new statutory guidance on Relationships and Sex Education for placing too strong an emphasis on marriage. Jonny Hunt, who operates the training consultancy ‘Going Off the Rails’ asserted in a blog post: ‘There still seems to be the belief that a marriage provides a safer environment for children or for sex. This is not the case.’5
Mr Hunt was also influential in the development of Warwickshire County Council’s ‘Respect Yourself’ website which condoned sexual experimentation by young people, employed crude and even foul language, featured sexual practices that it acknowledged to be ‘perversions’, and treated the age of consent with contempt.6 This website has also been taken down and is currently ‘under review’.
1. Paul Smith, ‘Thinking the Unthinkable: Parents withdraw children from a week of school’, Evangelical Times, September 2019; Sanchez Manning and Mark Hookham, ‘Children as young as SIX are to be given compulsory self-touching lessons that critics say are sexualising youngsters’, Mail on Sunday, 22 September 2019.
2. Paul Smith, ibid.
3. House of Commons, Hansard, 17 October 2019, col. 480.
4. ‘Warwickshire relationship lessons “too sex-focused”’, BBC News, 22 October 2019.
5. Jonny Hunt, ‘After 18 years of waiting the new draft guidance for RSE is here but…was it worth the wait?’ Going Off the Rails, 19 September 2019.
6. See Bulletin 150, March 2013.
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Aspects of the curriculum that have aroused concern, year by year
According to the template Relationship and Sex Education policy prepared by Warwickshire County Council in connection with the use of All About Me in primary schools:
‘The programme is designed to be immersive, being delivered over a single week, a lesson a day across all year groups from reception to year six. We find this is welcomed by parents who may have children in more than one year group as it means they will be having similar lessons (age-appropriate), at the same time.’
Reception (ages 4-5)
Children are introduced to same-sex relationships from the outset. They are asked: ‘Do some people have more than one mummy or daddy?’
On ‘gender issues’, teachers are advised:
‘You may well have a child whom, even at this early age, doesn’t feel like they fit the binary stereotypes of their birth gender. This is an ideal opportunity to talk to the class about the issue and ensure that their classmates are supportive and understand.
‘Some people may feel that actually they like to dress in clothes or behave in a way we would usually associate with the opposite gender. Some children may even feel that their body doesn’t really fit how they feel, even though they were born with the body parts of a boy, that actually inside they feel like they are a girl, or vice versa. This can be really confusing for some children and for the grownups that support them so it is important that we accept them for who they say they are.’
On ‘private parts’, teachers are instructed:
‘Encourage the class to shout out and name the private body parts using the correct terms. Do not tell them off if they offer other names, but instead ask them if they know the real names…
‘We would like to encourage girls to own their whole sexual anatomy, including their pleasurable parts rather than reducing it to merely their baby making body parts.’
Year 1 (ages 5-6)
In a lesson on ‘Me and my body’, after singing the song, ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes’, teachers are to:
‘Explain that there are some very important parts of our bodies that we need to know the names of that the song completely skips over, this is because some people (even grownups) find it uncomfortable to talk about them and find them embarrassing, but this is silly as they are still part of all our bodies and it is important that we feel comfortable to talk about and know what they are called. These are our private parts.’
At the close of the lesson, the teacher is to stress that ‘It is important we are comfortable talking about all parts of our bodies, even the private parts.’
At the end of a lesson on ‘Me and my relationships’, the lesson plan outlines how a teacher might appropriately respond to the question, ‘How do you make a baby?’ After explaining the need to ‘get a sperm from one body, to an egg from another person’s body’, the teacher is advised to inform a class of five and six year-olds that:
‘The best way for doing this is having sex, but a baby isn’t made every time two adults have sex. A lot of it comes down to luck.
‘Sex is something that grownups do, because it can feel nice and it is the closest two people can get to each other when they really like and fancy each other.
‘They might kiss and get undressed and stroke each other all over.’
Year 2 (ages 6-7)
In an exercise on the differences between girls and boys, as in the Reception class, the teacher is advised again that: ‘You may well have a child whom even at this early age doesn’t feel like they fit the binary stereotypes of their birth gender’, and so pupils should be allowed to ‘stand in whichever gender box they identify with regardless of their birth gender. This is an ideal opportunity to talk to the class about the issue and ensure that their classmates are supportive and understand.’
In a lesson on ‘Me and my body’, six and seven year-olds are also introduced to ‘rules about touching yourself’:
‘Now lots of people like to tickle or stroke themselves as it might feel nice. They might play with their hair, stroke their skin or they may even touch their private parts. This is really very normal. However, some people may get cross or say that it is dirty, especially when you touch your own privates.
‘This is strange as it is really very normal, however, it is not polite to do it when other people are about. It is something we should only do when we are alone, perhaps in the bath or shower or in bed, a bit like picking your nose, it is certainly not polite to do in class when everyone is watching.’
Year 3 (ages 7-8)
In the course of the lesson on ‘Me and my body’, the question ‘How do you make a baby?’ is answered with the same references to ‘luck’, ‘nice feelings’ and ‘fancying each other’ that are found in the lesson on ‘Me and my relationships’ in Year 1.
Seven and eight year-olds are also to be introduced to IVF and to its use to produce children for same-sex couples:
‘[S]ome couples might need some extra help, sometimes doctors can take the sperm from a daddy and put them together with the eggs from the mummy in a science lab and once they have joined together they will then put them inside the womb to grow.
‘This can also be done if two men or two women who love each other want to have a baby too, because remember from our work yesterday that families come in all different shapes and sizes.’
Year 4 (ages 8-9)
The curriculum stresses again that: ‘We would like to encourage girls to own their whole sexual anatomy including their pleasurable parts, rather than reducing it to merely their baby making body parts.’ It also reiterates the ‘rules about touching yourself’ (see Year 2).
Year 5 (ages 9-10)
Within a lesson on ‘Me and my relationships’, a section on ‘Crushes and fancying people’ includes a film featuring a romance between two boys. The lesson plan deliberately does not highlight that fact because its authors want the children to view it as unremarkable. The teacher is accordingly advised that:
‘If the children comment then we can unpick their issues, however, by accepting and treating the romance as no different to one between a boy and a girl we can help re-enforce the fact to young people & encourage them to remain accepting themselves.’
The teacher is encouraged to tell pupils that:
‘Many people when they are young have crushes on people of the same gender. This is not uncommon or anything to be ashamed about. Equally, there are other children that even at this very early age already know that they are attracted to the same gender, so don’t dismiss this as something they will grow out of.‘
‘The rule surrounding touching our privates’ is rehearsed once again (see Years 2 and 4).
Year 6 (ages 10-11)
In addressing the question, ‘What is sex?’ pupils are advised that:
‘Sex is something that adults do and is something that is private as it involves our private parts.
‘A man and a woman may choose to have sex to make a baby, this is when the man’s penis fits inside the woman’s vagina but this isn’t the only reason that people may choose to have sex and there is more to sex than merely putting a penis in a vagina.
‘In fact two men or two women who really fancy each other can have sex too.
‘Sex involves lots of kissing, cuddling and touching each other all over, so some people may have sex to feel close to their partner or because it can feel nice.’
At no point is there any reference to marriage in relation to sexual intimacy.
In another activity, children are encouraged to use words for sex or sexual body parts that may be used by: small children, teenagers and doctors respectively. In introducing the activity, the teacher is encouraged to say:
‘There are lots of words we may use or have heard that adults and teenagers use to talk about sex. Many of them would usually get you in trouble if you used them in class but today we can use them and talk about them openly.’
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Under the new legal framework for Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education, from September 2020 parents will retain the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes, but not from Relationships Education. However, according to Warwickshire County Council most of the All About Me programme will be taught within Relationships Education lessons, meaning that parents will be denied the right of withdrawal.
The policy template that the authority is encouraging schools to adopt in conjunction with using the All About Me materials reveals that only three lessons are considered to be providing ‘sex education’. Everything else will be taught within Relationships Education, from which parents have no right to withdraw their children. The template states:
‘In the Infant programme the only lesson parents can choose to opt their child out of is Mummy’s Bump, which sits in the year one programme under the My Relationships subject heading. All other lessons in the Infant programme are statutory under the new guidance.
‘In the Junior programme, parents can choose to opt out of two lessons, one in the year three programme: Where did I come from? and one in the year six programme: Puberty: What I’ve heard about Sex. All other lessons are mandatory.’
The template goes on to state that while the three ‘sex education’ lessons are not statutory, it is believed that they are ‘essential’.
No right of withdrawal
According to Warwickshire County Council, where the All About Me programme is being used in primary schools, parents will have no right to withdraw their children from lessons covering matters such as ‘gender issues’, same-sex relationships and masturbation. On the latter issue, the policy template states:
‘As part of teaching safe and appropriate touching we recognise that we also need to address how children touch themselves including self-stimulation. We acknowledge that as part of Healthy Sexual Development, children of all ages tend to self-stimulate. Many children even in early infancy will touch themselves because it feels nice but there will rarely be a sexual undertone. As children reach puberty they often become more aware of their genitals and may start to masturbate properly. Throughout the programme we tackle the issue of self-stimulation and masturbation. We talk to children about private activities should only happen in private spaces (sic).’
The range and nature of the topics that Warwickshire County Council considers it appropriate to cover within Relationships Education highlights once again the way in which parental concerns are being undermined and the problems raised by denying parents the right to withdraw their children from highly sexualised content in lessons branded as ‘Relationships Education’. As the Bishop of Durham noted in a House of Lords debate on 24 April 2019:
‘The lines between relationships and sex education are far more blurred than is recognised, so I ask that great care is taken to monitor that this does not lead to inappropriate sex education being offered at an early age in the name of relationships education.’1
1. See ‘Where is the dividing line between Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education?’ Bulletin 175, August 2019.
● Warwickshire County Council, Relationship and Sex Education Policy template, September 2018.
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Mary Russell reflects on how one of Europe’s most liberal abortion laws came to be imposed on the Province
The ongoing disagreements and arguments swirling around the status of the Irish Language, the worthiness of investigations into killings during ‘The Troubles’, the push to accommodate same-sex ‘marriage’, the insults and spats that oft-times broke through ‘simmer-setting’, finally reached boiling point with the ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal.
As the minister responsible, and under the Renewable Heating Incentive, the Democratic Unionist Party’s Arlene Foster oversaw a scheme where people were effectively paid to heat their properties as long as they used wood pellets as a source of fuel, regardless of whether or not the property warranted heating. Accusations of installing pellet burners in empty outbuildings and unused barns grew to a public outcry, and by then, Mrs Foster was First Minister of the Stormont Assembly and the cost of the scheme had soared to upwards of £480 million.
Nationalist Sinn Féin demanded Mrs Foster stand aside to allow an inquiry into the scandal. She refused. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest and Sinn Féin would not replace him, thus stripping Mrs Foster of her title as First Minister, and the Executive collapsed.
It was then, in the misty limbo of neither here nor there, that Labour MP Stella Creasy proposed an amendment to a bill (relating to the governance of Northern Ireland) to decriminalise abortion and extend same-sex ‘marriage’ to the Province. The amendment was supported and passed by Westminster MPs to become law if devolution was not restored by 21 October 2019.
On that date, after over 1,000 days of not sitting, enough assembly member signatures were gathered to recall the Executive, but with the DUP opposing the legislation, and Sinn Féin set to welcome it, the stage was set for another clash. However, Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, the Green Party, and People before Profit strategically declined to take part and when SDLP members left the chamber refusing to elect a new speaker, their absence set in motion the suspension of the sitting.
Arlene Foster echoed the mood of the DUP and pro-life observers when she said, ‘I think this is a shameful day for those members of the Assembly who haven’t come. There are those who will celebrate today. I would have to say it is not a day for celebration for the unborn. It is certainly not a day of celebration for them… We may not have been able to prevent this legislation going through today, but …this is not the end of the matter as far as this party is concerned. We will take every legal option open to us.’
Later, Sinn Féin were to publicly declare support for the changes despite long-standing criticism from the Catholic Church, pro-life groups and from a former member of the Irish Parliament, now leader of a Republican pro-life group, who stated that it was ‘shocking to see the central tenet of self-determination overturned within Sinn Féin’, with leader Mary Lou McDonald going to London to ‘demand they legislate for Ireland’. Ms McDonald and Sinn Féin’s Michele O’Neill were photographed celebrating the Irish referendum’s liberal abortion result, holding a banner emblazoned with the warning, ‘The North is Next!’
Until now terminations in Northern Ireland could only be performed if the woman’s life was in danger or there was serious risk to her mental health. But the government has now launched a consultation on a proposed framework for the new liberal law on abortion, which has been described as extreme. The new framework jettisons the legal safeguards of the 1967 Abortion Act and has aptly been described as one of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe – more or less abortion for any reason, at any time.
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The Northern Ireland Office is currently consulting on a new legal framework covering abortion in Northern Ireland. The consultation document states that up until now, case law has determined that abortion in Northern Ireland is lawful only ‘where it is necessary to preserve the life of a woman or girl, or where there is a risk of real and serious adverse effect on her physical or mental health, which is either long term or permanent’.
However, in the ongoing absence of a restored Northern Ireland Executive, section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 requires the UK government to create a new framework to provide lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland by 31 March 2020.
United Nations Committee Report
The legislation commits the government to implementing the recommendations on abortion and sexual and reproductive health services contained in a 2018 report issued by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The UN report recommended that the UK government ‘urgently’ repeal the current legislation ‘so that no criminal charges can be brought against women and girls who undergo abortion or against qualified health care professionals and all others who provide and assist in the abortion’. The UN Committee’s report also included recommendations that:
● women should have ‘access to high quality abortion and post-abortion care in all public health facilities’;
● ‘age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights…covering early pregnancy prevention and access to abortion’ should be made a compulsory part of the curriculum in secondary schools;
● a strategy should be adopted ‘to combat gender-based stereotypes regarding women’s primary role as mothers’; and
● women should be protected from ‘harassment by anti-abortion protestors by investigating complaints, prosecuting and punishing perpetrators’.
The government is seeking views on matters such as:
● a period of unrestricted access for early abortions;
● the time limit for an abortion (a) on the grounds of risk to the mother’s physical or mental health, and (b) in cases of fetal abnormality;
● who should be permitted to perform an abortion;
● the premises on which abortions should be permitted;
● whether medical practitioners and other health professionals should have a right of conscientious objection to being involved in an abortion; and
● whether buffer zones should operate around premises where abortions are performed.
● HM Government, A new legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland: Implementation of the legal duty under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. Closing date for responses: 16 December 2019.
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Recently retired Radio 4 Today programme presenter, John Humphrys, on the liberal bias of his former employer
One temptation the BBC sometimes finds hard to resist is social engineering. Yet its job is to hold up a mirror to society and reflect back to the audiences what it sees. For good or ill. It should not try to create society in its own image. It should not try to place its powerful finger on one side of the scale of social justice. Which is why I raised my eyebrows when the BBC announced it had created the new post of LGBT correspondent — and the man appointed said: ‘I’m looking forward to being the mouthpiece for some marginalised groups…’ It was the use of the word ‘mouthpiece’ that jarred.
Obviously, the BBC must give a voice to minorities, but it must not act as anyone’s mouthpiece. That’s what lobbyists and public relations people do. To confuse the two is to undermine the job of a journalist. Imagine a defence correspondent announcing that he sees himself as the mouthpiece for the Armed Forces. Or the health correspondent as the mouthpiece of the NHS. Or even, heaven forfend, the royal correspondent as the mouthpiece of the Royal Family. It worries me that the nation has become susceptible to certain pressure groups in a way that we should all find disturbing.
Academics call it ‘policy capture’. It means influencing policy — even dictating it — through fear rather than argument. They destroy those who disagree with them, often through personal attacks on their character or by sheer intimidation. A relatively recent phenomenon in the BBC is the growth of groups of employees who conflate and, perhaps, confuse their own interests with those of the wider world. The logic seems to be that if they feel strongly about a given issue, the BBC should not only listen to them but modify its output to reflect their own world view.
A generation ago, they might have been listened to politely and then shown the door. Today, they don’t need to talk to their bosses: they use Twitter. One small example was an edition of Question Time. It included a question from a member of the audience who was worried that it might not be morally appropriate for five-year-old children to be taught about LGBT issues. Some members of the BBC’s LGBT group, including a business presenter, took to Twitter to complain that the question should not have been allowed.
The director of BBC News responded by sending all staff an email reminding them that they’re entitled to their personal views, but not allowed to parade them on social media. Quite right, too. She could also have told the group not to be so silly and suggested it probably wouldn’t look good for an organisation whose very essence is the ultimate democratic gift of free speech to engage in censorship. But had she done that, it would have caused great offence — and that’s no longer allowed in the modern BBC.
● Adapted by Corinna Honan from A Day Like Today by John Humphrys, HarperCollins 2019 and taken from a longer extract that appeared in the Daily Mail, 20 September 2019.
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At the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October, John Humphrys commented:
‘If you take something like transgender, the mindset is such that we must kind of accept what the prevailing view is, except that their idea of “the prevailing view” and perhaps mine and some other people’s might be slightly different.
‘I happen to believe, personally, that there are not an unlimited number of genders. I believe we are born men and women. I feel slightly worried when large numbers of children are being told, “You think you might be a girl or you think you might be a boy? We’ll go and get you medical attention.”
‘I’m uneasy about that and I’m uneasy about children being told in schools there are more than 100 different genders and it’s possible for someone to change gender overnight. I’m worried about where it’s heading. The BBC’s attitude with that sort of social development is to be immediately sympathetic, not entirely detached as it should be.’
● Daily Telegraph, 6 October 2019.
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Significant divisions have arisen between homosexual rights campaigners over Stonewall’s commitment to trans equality. In a letter to the Sunday Times, prominent gay rights campaigners expressed concern that Stonewall’s transgender policies had ‘divided supporters of gay and lesbian rights in a way that may be irreparable’. Signatories to the letter included Simon Fanshawe, a co-founder of Stonewall and Bev Jackson, a founder of the Gay Liberation Front.
The letter related that in October 2018, a group of LGB rights supporters asked Stonewall to ‘commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate rather than demonising as transphobic those who wish to discuss, or dissent from’ its transgender policies’. However, repeated requests to enter into such dialogue had been refused. The letter continued:
‘The government continues to treat Stonewall as if it represented the views of progressive thinking in general, and specifically LGB opinion. It does not.
‘We believe it has made mistakes in its approach that undermine women’s sex-based rights and protections.
‘The most worrying aspect of this is that all primary-school children are now challenged to review their “gender identity” and decide that they may be the opposite sex if they do not embrace outdated gender stereotypes.’1
In a separate letter to the Sunday Times, Dr Marcus Evans, a former deputy clinical director in adolescent and adult clinical services at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, explained why he had resigned as a governor of the Trust. He wrote:
‘The treatment of gender dysphoric children has become highly politicised and, in many ways, operates outside good medical practice. There is pressure to view patients as consumers who have a choice over their gender, rather than people with underlying conflicts about themselves and their relationship with society.
‘In the absence of long-term outcome studies, services often quote Dutch research that found positive results for transition, ignoring the small size of the cohort. Ten other studies show that 80%-90% of gender-dysphoric children desist in their wish for social or medical transition if given psychological support.
‘We do not know why there has been such a rapid rise in late-onset gender dysphoria in girls in the past five years, and we show little interest in the damage done by treatment. When I was governor, the Tavistock was not following up children it had seen, and yet we are carrying on as if we know what we are doing.
‘The mental health services will look back at this episode as another dark chapter in the treatment of people with psychological difficulties.’2
1. Sunday Times, 22 September 2019.
2. Sunday Times, 17 November 2019.
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Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté
Vermilion, 2019, xi + 332pp, £9.99
This book was written ‘with the radical intent of reawakening people’s natural parenting instincts’. In opposition to the modern obsession with parenting as a set of skills to be followed along lines recommended by experts, it focuses not on what parents should do, but on what they need to be for their children.
The authors, a clinical psychologist and a retired physician, give particular attention to what they call ‘the phenomenon of peer orientation’ – the chief and most damaging of the competing attachments that undermine parental authority and love. They contend that for the first time in history, young people are turning for instruction, modelling and guidance not to their parents, teachers and other responsible adults, but to their own peers, who cannot possibly guide them to maturity.
By and large, culture is no longer being transmitted by parents to their children, but a very distinct and alien culture is being transmitted horizontally to children by their peers. All too often, peers have replaced parents as the most significant people in the lives of children and young people, but peer relationships typically lack the unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, and the willingness to sacrifice that characterise the parent-child relationship.
Dr Neufeld and Dr Maté argue that the reason that children so readily transfer their attachments from nurturing adults to each other is not due to individual parental failure, but to cultural breakdown. Daycare, schools and the loss of extended family have all contributed to a climate in which children are growing up ‘peer rich’ and ‘adult poor’. The authors note that peer interaction has also become a priority for many churches, with members grouped by age rather than by family, inadvertently promoting the loss of multi-generational connections.
In five major sections, the book addresses:
• The phenomenon of peer orientation;
• How peer orientation undermines parenting;
• How peer orientation stunts healthy development;
• How to hold on to our children (or how to reclaim them);
• Preventing peer orientation.
No book on parenting will command universal agreement in every respect, and Hold On to Your Kids is no exception. Nevertheless, many of its observations will resonate with every parent and it is full of helpful insights. For example, having noted that children who have replaced their parents with peers are the more likely to be sexually preoccupied and active, and that unwanted teenage pregnancies have escalated in countries where peer orientation abounds, it comments that:
‘The sex of adolescence seldom comes with the protection of commitment, the promise of exclusivity, the tenderness of consideration, or the support of the community. It is sex that is unprotected in the deepest sense – psychologically.’
For parents with peer-oriented children, Dr Neufeld and Dr Maté suggest four steps to reclaiming them and offer the encouragement that the relationship with parents and family still matters profoundly to even the most peer-oriented child. Above all, parents must seek to cultivate a profound intimacy that their children’s peers cannot compete with, and each child must know that he or she is wanted, special, significant, valued, appreciated, missed and enjoyed. Structures that facilitate the parent-child relationship are key: family holidays, family celebrations, family games, family activities; and above all, the family meal is one of the most significant attachment rituals of all.
In response to the question, ‘Who is to raise our children?’ the authors respond: ‘The resounding answer, the only answer compatible with nature, is that we – the parents and other adults concerned with the care of children – must be their mentors, their guides, their nurturers and their models.’
First published in Canada in 2004, this new edition of Hold On to Your Kids contains ‘a postscript for the digital age’, which observes that peer orientation has shaped the digital revolution, and the digital revolution both favours and furthers peer orientation. The authors hold that digital social interaction acts like a persistent and pervasive weed that eventually takes over and interferes with what children truly need. Digital connections are an unfulfilling substitute for real attachments, but the secret of reducing damage is not outright prohibition, but timing. Young people should not be exposed to social media until they are well-satisfied and well-satiated by a warm attachment to their parents and mature enough to handle it.
The overriding emphasis throughout the book is that ‘Parenting is not a set of skills and behaviours, but above all a relationship.’ In keeping with that, Dr Neufeld and Dr Maté wisely write:
‘We do not recommend that parents accept our suggestions until they have the confidence, the patience and the warmth to follow through with them. One must not parent a child from a book – not even this one!’
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Sixteen year-old girls taking the contraceptive pill are more likely to suffer depressive symptoms, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, the peer-reviewed medical journal of the American Medical Association.
A team of researchers from the University of Groningen, Leiden University Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts conducted a longitudinal study of 1,010 adolescents and found that oral contraceptive users reported more crying, eating problems, and hypersomnia compared with non-users.
● Anouk E de Wit, Sanne H Booij, Erik J Giltay et al, ‘Association of Use of Oral Contraceptives With Depressive Symptoms Among Adolescents and Young Women’, JAMA Psychiatry. Published online October 2, 2019.
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The Scottish government has finally scrapped its plan to provide every child and young person in Scotland with a state-appointed professional to ‘safeguard and support their wellbeing’ from birth until at least the age of 18.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, conceded that it was not possible to develop a statutory code of practice for the ‘named person’ scheme that was ‘workable, comprehensive and user-friendly for children and young people, parents and practitioners’.
He concluded: ‘We will now not underpin in law the mandatory named person scheme for every child. We will withdraw the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill and repeal the relevant legislation.’ While he was keen that ‘existing voluntary schemes that provide a point of contact for support’ should continue, they would be provided on a voluntary basis, ‘when councils and health boards wish to provide them and parents wish to use them’.
Mr Swinney confirmed that: ‘From a parent’s point of view, that means that information about a child or young person will not be routinely shared without their or their family’s knowledge or engagement.’
The decision was reached more than three years after a unanimous ruling in the UK Supreme Court that the powers granted to named persons to share private information about the children for whom they had responsibility were ‘incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents’. The legislation therefore lay outside ‘the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament’. The judgment further stated that the information-sharing provisions of the legislation ‘may in practice result in a disproportionate interference’ with the right of children and their parents to a private and family life.
Panel of experts
Following the Supreme Court judgment, the Scottish government attempted to modify its named person scheme in order to satisfy the requirements of human rights law. To that end, Mr Swinney had established a panel of experts to chart a way through the legal complexity. However, in September he was obliged to report to the Scottish Parliament that both he and the panel had ‘found it impossible to address the Supreme Court’s issues in a workable fashion’.
Liz Smith MSP, a long-term critic of the named person scheme commented:
‘I do not believe that any tears will be shed this afternoon by parents, teachers, health and social care professionals, campaigners or, of course, the public, who have persistently told the Scottish National Party that the policy is one of the most deeply unpopular, illiberal and unworkable ones of modern times.‘
The climbdown was also warmly welcomed by Family Education Trust and the other organisations behind the UK Supreme Court appeal and the No to Named Person (NO2NP) campaign.
● Getting it Right for Every Child (Practice Development Panel Report), Scottish Parliament, Official Record, 19 September 2019, cols 49-60.
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The Christian Institute has published a helpful guide to what schools can and cannot do in the name of equality and human rights. The 32-page booklet, Equipped for Equality, sets out to debunk the myths surrounding what schools in England, Wales and Scotland are required to do in order to fulfil the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.
In five sections it demonstrates that:
● Equality law requires schools to protect, not promote.
● Respecting people does not require agreement.
● Schools must educate, not indoctrinate.
● Schools cannot compel thought and expression.
● Schools must balance the rights of transgender pupils with the rights of others.
● Equipped for Equality is available for free download from https://christian.org.uk/resource/equipped-for-equality
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The 2020 Annual General Meeting and conference will take place at the Royal Air Force Club in central London on Saturday 30 May 2020. Please note the date in your diary and plan to join us if you are able. Further details will be provided in future issues of the bulletin.
Video recordings from the 2019 conference, together with recordings from earlier events are now available online on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/familyeducationtrust/videos
● Colin Hart – Marriage and divorce in the liberal imagination.
● Dr Stuart Waiton – Policing the family: The ‘new class’ and the obsession with early intervention.
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