The Church of England has published a charter on relationships and sexual health education (RSHE), but critics say it just panders to the culture.
General Synod member Andrea Williams (who is also Director of Christian Concern) said, ‘This charter fails to protect teachers, governors and children who wish to state and uphold the Church’s own teaching on marriage and family’.
She added, ‘The Church of England has a God-given opportunity and responsibility to set the culture of its schools in line with the teaching of God found in the Bible. But instead, it consistently capitulates to the spirit of the age as, for example, expressed in statute by the Equality Act’.
According to Andrea Williams, it also ‘represents a missed opportunity to bring the good news of God’s purposes and pattern for human relationships to the confused and toxic environment in which the one million children they are responsible for are having to grow up’.
She also said, ‘Surely it should not be difficult for the Church to boldly stand with Jesus and his teaching that is stark yet loving, liberating and life-giving. This is the firm foundation on which all education in our nation was once built’.
The Church of England says its charter contains eight commitments which all schools, Church of England (CofE) and others, can sign up to. The aim is to get schools to adhere to these commitments prior to the government’s new RSHE guidelines becoming law in autumn 2020.
Among the commitments is that a school will not ‘discriminate against any of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act, and will be sensitive to the faith and beliefs of those in the wider school community’.
The stated aim of the CofE’s lead Bishop for Education, Stephen Conway, was to provide a way in which CofE schools and others can meet the government’s educational objectives while maintaining a religious viewpoint.
In April last year, Mr Conway had said that RSHE would require a shared duty of care between parents and schools, with the contents of the curriculum discussed and clearly communicated in advance.
To enable this, a skeleton agenda for parents’ meetings has also been published, together with a framework for school staff discussion, a policy template and activities and prayers, in addition to the charter.
The introduction of new RSHE lessons has been highly controversial with parents in many areas of the country.