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Parent campaigners fear changes to sex education in all Redbridge schools next year may be “dangerous” for their children.
Parents United, a group of parents from more than 20 schools in Redbridge and elsewhere, are worried about the new syllabus being created by schools and Redbridge Council.
The syllabus will come into effect next September, when new laws will mean all primary schools must teach relationships and health education (RHE) and secondary schools must teach sex education.
Parents United member Fathima Shukry worries the change may allow “campaign groups to push their agenda into classrooms”.
However, Redbridge Council insists it will take the views of all parents into account when designing the new syllabus, including those who are LGBTQ+, religious or both.
Fathima said: “Some topics are actually quite dangerous. What’s appropriate for one child age five is not appropriate for another.
“For example, if we teach (about being transgender) at primary school, keep it factual. We do not need pictures or colourful stories because it can be taken the wrong way by the child.
“I want my child to learn to tolerate and respect differences, I think it’s alright for people to be different. If I say I do not accept something that’s fine and, if other people don’t accept my faith, I won’t get offended.
“I understand why (LGBT parents) might want to introduce it to their children but to promote it, I don’t think that’s right, and I hope that does not happen in our schools. I hope that we can find the right balance for all families.”
Fellow member Hadjar Meftah agreed parents from all groups and backgrounds should “involve themselves and engage” to create a syllabus that works for everyone.
She said: “We have to, as a community, come together as people with opposing ideas and backgrounds frankly and respectfully.
“If we silence parents on anything and they are harbouring these worries then they are not going to support that education at home and that’s not going to be great for the child.”
The new laws will limit when parents can withdraw their children from sex education lessons.
While primary school parents will always be able to withdraw their children, secondary school students must participate in sex education lessons relating to the science curriculum.
Hadjar said: “I did not wish or try to withdraw my son but it’s up to the parents. They should be able to approach the school and have a dialogue.
“It’s really hard to make generalisations because lots of children develop differently, mentally and emotionally. Generally a parent knows their child best.
“I like to be the primary teacher of my kids, sometimes I talk to them about things even before the school does. It’s so personal, every family is different.”
A key concern for Parents United is that the council and schools have not done enough to make parents aware of the changes and how to make their views known.
Fathima said: “What was alarming (when Parents United formed) was that nobody knew about it. Even one parent who worked in the council and a teacher we spoke to did not know.
“We have tried our best to inform people as much as we can but until it comes from the council and the schools, parents will not be aware.
“We are concerned that parents are only coming (into the consultation process) at the end, when everything is decided. By that time, the resources are mostly fixed.”
Redbridge Council originally intended to introduce the new syllabus this September, after consulting during the summer term, but this plan was scuppered by the pandemic.
Director of education and inclusion Colin Stuart told the education scrutiny panel on September 29 that so far only “a little bit of work” had been done due to the need to focus on coronavirus.
He added the council hoped to have a “draft syllabus for schools to comment on” completed before the October half term so parents can be consulted between January and April next year.
Responding to concerned parents who spoke at the meeting, he said the council would “take account” of the views of all parents when creating the syllabus.
He said: “If you are a parent that comes at this from a faith perspective you might have a different view to a parent in a same-sex relationship.
“In terms of the syllabus, that will be open for consultation. Then it’s up to schools at an individual level to adapt that policy.”