Parents' group files formal complaint about new syllabus roll-out, citing lesson on same-sex couples

National Primary Offer Day in Redbridge

Parents United, a Muslim parent action group, has made formal complaints about council leader Jas Athwal and a member of staff. - Credit: PA

A Muslim parent action group in Redbridge has made formal complaints against senior council figures over its handling of relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) in the borough. 

Parents United, which campaigns for a "faith-sensitive and age-appropriate" RSHE curriculum, has filed complaints about council leader Jas Athwal and a member of staff.

The complaint relates to the handling of the introduction of the new RSHE syllabus, which is being rolled out across UK schools this September. 

The group claims the syllabus contains material which is not age-appropriate or sensitive to pupils from faith backgrounds.

As an example of content Parents United deems inappropriate, the group’s written complaint cited a lesson it said was taught to 12-year-olds at an Ilford high school entitled "how do same-sex couples have sex?’".  

Redbridge Council has pointed out schools it maintains have to follow the national curriculum, but it also hosted consultations in all the borough's schools on how it would be taught.

Cllr Athwal said he engaged with all local community groups and residents throughout these consultations.

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Parents United alleges Cllr Athwal and the member of staff ignored its concerns and enquiries and the consultations were a “box-ticking exercise". 

It has demanded an investigation into Cllr Athwal’s conduct, the member of staff to be suspended, an independent inquiry into the situation and that guidance is issued encouraging schools to tailor the syllabus following consultations. 

A council spokesperson said the local authority's schools had to follow the national curriculum set by the government and the borough had procedures in place to ensure families’ views on the mandatory rollout were captured. 

“This consultation took place at every school in Redbridge with schools modifying the contents of their curriculum based on the local responses of parents," they said, adding: “It would not be appropriate for the council to comment on any complaints made against staff members, which would be handled in line with the council’s complaints process.” 

The complaint against Cllr Athwal was made to Labour group whip Cllr Martin Sachs. 

He said: “Cllr Athwal has listened to the views and concerns of all local community groups and residents throughout the consultation, as is the case with all consultations.   

“In this instance, the leader has overseen all communications with Parents United and, when appropriate, has responded to the group directly or via relevant council officers.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Last year we made Relationship, Sex, and Health Education mandatory in all secondary schools, which has been designed to reflect the diversity of views and backgrounds, while fostering all pupils’ respect for others.

“We are working closely with teachers to ensure they feel supported to deliver the curriculum effectively and confidently. Schools are legally required to consult with parents on their RSHE policies in order to minimise any misconception or concerns.”

The member of staff and Cllr Athwal were also contacted for comment. 

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