Parents should have the right to know what their children are being taught, argues life peer
There is a growing chorus of voices demanding greater transparency in education when it comes to what school pupils are being taught about politically contentious subjects
This is despite Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi recently calling on schools to “stop teaching activist propaganda”.
Several parents, teachers and campaigners are arguing that under the guise of promoting inclusivity, diversity and equality, highly contested ideas about race and gender are being smuggled into schools, amounting to a form of “indoctrination”.
Last week, The Times revealed that parents of a teenager at Haberdashers’ Hatcham College in southeast London were removing their child from the school over fears their daughter was being “indoctrinated” into controversial ideas about race, gender and sexuality.
Clare Page, the pupil’s mother said she complained to the school on several occasions about a range of different teaching materials and lessons.
One complaint was in relation to a school assembly about “white privilege” and “discriminatory systems of power”, which Ms Page felt unnecessarily racialised pupils.
The school upheld some of the complaints, agreeing that some of the content around race was inappropriate.
But when Ms Page asked to have a copy of the sex education lessons provided by the School of Sexuality Education, a third-party organisation, the school refused.
Ms Page has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a ruling that parents have the right to have a copy of school lesson plans.
In our exclusive report on politicised education last month, we spoke to several parents and teachers of primary and secondary school children who were worried about the direction of travel in education when it came to teaching about race and gender.
Ian Burns, a state secondary school teacher, told us plainly that “there is a direction of travel with policies, with the way 'diversity, equity and inclusion' is being implemented in schools, that is inevitably ideological".
Most of the people we spoke to had first-hand experience of this problem and had come up against several different roadblocks when seeking further information from their schools about teaching materials and lessons on contentious subjects.
Parents frequently reported that when lessons are provided by outside organisations, the commercial interests of the company are cited as a reason why they cannot view the materials.
Parents often expressed being made to feel bigoted or backwards-looking when they raised concerns about materials.
This comes as former Education Secretary Baroness Morris of Yardley proposed an amendment to the Schools Bill, the Government’s flagship reform legislation currently going through Parliament, which would mean parents have the right to know what their children are being taught in schools.
The amendment states that: “Where parents request it, schools must allow parents to view all curriculum materials used in schools, including those provided by external third-party charitable and commercial providers.”
It goes on to state that “schools must not withhold curriculum materials from parental view, but may restrict access to parental view on school premises only, including to satisfy the concerns of third-party providers about commercial prejudice or commercial confidentiality”
A Department for Education spokesman told The Telegraph: “It’s right that parents should have access to the curriculum and resources schools use with their children, especially in sensitive subjects…We welcome this challenge from peers and, as with all issues raised in the House, the department and ministers will consider whether further action is required.”
The proposed amendment has been welcomed by a number of concerned groups including Conservatives For Women, who wrote in a briefing note that they “welcome this amendment to the Schools Bill which clarifies that parents have a right to view all the curriculum materials used in their children's school”.