Recorder letters: Sex education, Chief Rabbi, London Living Wage and letter from Santa
PUBLISHED: 12:30 15 November 2020
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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.
Campaign should ring alarm bells
Paul Kaufman, chair of East London Humanists, and Sadikur Rahman, National Secular Society member, write:
We were concerned to read the article in your paper about a group called ‘Parents United’ regarding relationship and health education in primary schools and sex education in secondary schools.
We fear the sentiments expressed by the members of that group bear all the hallmarks of a campaign against inclusive education and the scaremongering hallmarks of similar campaigns mounted around the UK, for example in Birmingham.
Redbridge children deserve inclusive education fit for the 21st century. If you agree, then the press release by self-styled ‘Parents United’ should ring alarm bells.
Their campaign over the new relationship and sex education syllabus has begun before they even know the detail.
One of their objections is to ‘campaign groups’ who seek to ‘push their agenda into classrooms.’ They omit to point out that this is exactly what they are doing.
They describe a syllabus which is ‘dangerous’ for their children. Since when was learning about difference dangerous? Their use of the term ‘dangerous’ in this context is unnecessary and provocative.
The nub of their objection is ‘pictures or colourful stories’ which might ‘promote’ homosexuality.
There is no realistic prospect of any new syllabus including graphic sexual images or language.
It should be borne in mind that wildly inaccurate clams about the material used in classrooms were also circulated in Birmingham. The legislation makes it clear that any material must be age appropriate.
What the syllabus materials should include are images and stories which show children being happy and leading a good life in different sorts of family, say one with two dads.
Showing such images, and telling such stories, is not ‘promotion.’
They help teach tolerance and understanding in a world where we all have to learn to rub along together, whatever our differences. Their objections recall the battle over clause 28 introduced during the Thatcher era, a law long since abolished and discredited.
Perhaps the most telling complaint is that there is no right to withdraw from sex education related to the science curriculum.
However, this isn’t new. It was a provision in the 1996 Education Act (legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/405).
Under the new regulations, parents retain the right to withdraw their children from sex education right up until three terms from the child’s 16th birthday, at which point, the child can opt themselves back in.
There is no right to withdraw from relationships education.
Our view is that there should in fact be no right to withdraw to withdraw from sex education at all. But the fact ‘Parents United’ are complaining about not being able to deny their children lessons in basic human biology illustrates they are far from reasonable.
We are confident that the local authority will quite rightly endeavour to engage in constructive dialogue with all parents before any syllabus is introduced.
However, it is important to recognise in this process that Parents United does not represent any particular community, just themselves and their members who share their objections to forward thinking education.
We are longstanding residents of Redbridge.
Our families have been or are being educated in the borough, including children currently in both primary and secondary school.
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We are interested in hearing from anyone who shares our support for a new, age-appropriate syllabus which is fully inclusive.
Former Chief Rabbi will be missed
Michael Yeshin, Chigwell, writes:
Many readers will be aware of the untimely death aged just 72, on November 7, of the former Chief Rabbi.
He was a man of great energy and vision and made several visits to our area.
He will be sorely missed.
Sick pay should be increased
Dr Alison Moore, Londonwide Assembly member, writes:
This week, thousands of lower paid Londoners will be given a pay boost with the increase of the voluntary London Living Wage to £10.85 an hour.
Over the last four years, the number of employers in the capital signed-up to the Living Wage Foundation’s scheme has doubled. As London begins its economic recovery from the second lockdown, I hope to see this number continue to rise.
After a decade of austerity, we have seen a worrying surge in in-work poverty and food insecurity. It is vital that we act now to close the widening gap between wage packets and the costs of living.
I welcome the government’s recent announcement of the extension of the furlough scheme until March. However, the chancellor must now put measures in place to ensure that furlough pay can no longer be allowed to fall below the minimum wage and that, as a starting point, the temporary uplift in Universal Credit payments is extended.
I am also backing the calls made by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) that statutory sick pay should be increased from £95.85 to £320 per week to match the real national living wage.
Sign up for letter from Santa
Sarah Lambley, NSPCC supporter fundraising manager for London, writes:
It’s been a difficult year for Santa and the Elves. Social distancing in the workshop has meant production has been tricky at times but they are still on target to have everything ready for Christmas Eve.
Amazingly, Santa has still found time to team up with us at the NSPCC, to send personalised letters all the way from Lapland.
Each ‘Letter from Santa’ is printed and posted directly to your child in a festive envelope. You can choose the background design and fill in your child’s personal information such as age, best friend’s name or particular achievements throughout the year.
All we ask in return is a donation to help us be there for children, whatever their worries, this Christmas and beyond.
£5 could buy art materials to help a child who has been abused to express their feelings when they can’t find the words. £4 could pay for one of our trained volunteer counsellors to answer a child’s call to Childline. In 2019/20 our volunteers handled an estimated 34,100 counselling sessions with children in London.
Without the support of people in London we simply wouldn’t be able to deliver our vital services which offer a lifeline to many children and young people whose lives have been affected by abuse.
To find out more about Letter from Santa visit nspcc.org.uk/Santa
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