At the Evangelical Alliance we want to see a society which works for the good of all, built on love, truth, freedom and justice.

As part of this big vision, education helps enable our children to flourish and become those who work for the good of society, and we support schools working in partnership with, and on behalf of, parents to see this vision come about.

However, over recent years, we have begun to see a strain on the relationship between the education system and the primary role parents play in their child’s education. From 2020 all schools, irrespective of their type (e.g. community, academy, independent etc.) or religious character will be required to teach prescribed topics in relationships education in primary schools and relationships and sex education in secondary schools. 

We have identified a particular point of strain in these education partnerships in the government’s proposal to change the law and give the final decision about what and when almost all children, from the age of 11 onwards, learn about these sensitive subjects to head teachers instead of parents. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has been controversial and has prompted over 100,000 people to object by signing a petition which has triggered a debate in parliament on Monday, 25 February. 

Could you write to your MP and encourage them to attend the debate? We’ve rounded up some resources to help you do this.

While many parents may decide that they are content for schools to teach their children sex education at the age decided by the school and government, many other parents believe intimate conversations require an intimate home-based setting and an approach based on the age of their particular child and who they are as a unique person. We want parents to be equipped and supported to guide their children on these important issues in the ways most appropriate to their particular child. 

Partnerships between schools and parents are also stronger when communication is clear and it is for that reason that we recommended that schools be required to make the full curriculum available to parents before it’s taught and notify them ahead of time if there will be any external organisations teaching their children. We were encouraged that, according to national polling conducted by ComRes, 78 per cent of UK adults agreed with our recommendations on these two issues; it remains to be seen whether the government does.

This strain is also perhaps seen in the partnerships in education that specifically involve schools with a religious character. Many parents choose these schools for their children specifically because they want a religiously-rooted partnership for the education their children. Yet significant questions remain under these proposals about whether religiously-rooted schools will be able to teach these subjects in ways faithful to the core beliefs and practices. 

This is perhaps most applicable in areas around sexuality. While parts of the guidance suggests schools will have some flexibility in how they teach on these controversial issues it remains unclear whether they will have freedom in what they teach, with the content requirements seeming to apply to all schools without regard to the diversity of particular schools and their distinctive ethos.

Every child and every family is unique and in this country parents, who are primarily responsible for their children’s education, often have the option of a wide range of educational partnerships with religiously rooted schools for their children. It is our hope that the government will ensure that these partnerships are strengthened, not weakened, as they trust parents to inform, educate and guide their children on these sensitive issues.