In order to combat homophobic bullying Tristram Hunt, the Shadow Education Secretary, has published plans to make age appropriate sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools.
As part of the strategy, the Labour Press office promised that it will provide a national best practice to equip schools with the resources to tackle Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic bullying. In addition, it will ensure that all new teachers are trained to tackle homophobic bullying and provide support for those teachers already in the system to receive training. Depending on the general election result, classroom sex education for 5 year-olds, in the context of homophobic bullying, is just around the corner.
What a strange few days it has been for education. First of all, we had Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, announcing that primary school head teachers could face the sack if their 11-year-old pupils fail a times tables test. An older generation will recall having to know their tables at a much younger age and this remains the expectation in most private schools. Having witnessed his Education Secretary setting the bar so low, the Prime Minister then followed up by announcing an all-out war on mediocrity.
Not to be outdone in terms of declaring war, Tristram Hunt has now, in effect, declared war on childhood. It is out with Paddington Bear and Thomas the Tank Engine and in with sex and sexuality. He is building on the current offensive initiated by Nicky Morgan’s British Values campaign and enforced on schools by Ofsted inquisitors. It seems that we simply cannot have a situation where primary schools pupils, such as those recently reported at Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland and elsewhere, cannot answer Ofsted questions about lesbian sex and trans-sexuality.
Just who to these imbecilic politicians think they are? Childhood is a very special gift. It is not something to be kicked around as a football in a point-scoring contest on who can best promote misguided notions of political correctness.
According to a 2013 survey commissioned by the National Association of Head Teachers, most parents do wish to see compulsory SRE (sex and relationships education) in our schools. However, a majority do not want it to be taught until pupils reach their teens. Even then, a minority, around a million parents, do not wish to have their child subjected to the kind of SRE lessons currently on offer.
It is about time politicians listened to parents and guardians. In this matter, above all others, mums and dads really do know best. Consultation with parents at a local school level is surely the most fundamental of parental rights and responsibilities. Governments, bureaucrats and politicians should not be making the final decision.
Many parents will be aghast that a zealous teacher, clasping a certificate of competence in politically correct sexuality, will be unleashed on their 5 year-old to explain the meaning of Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic with or without Labour’s bizarre use of capital letters.
Bullying is bad! Kindness is good! That is the only message necessary for young children. It covers homophobic bullying without stealing innocence and childhood. Fairy tales deal perfectly well with the dark side of our society and with the dangers and threats that can impinge on young lives.
The illiberal shadow of political correctness is lengthening. It now threatens to envelope our youngest, most impressionable, most vulnerable. The current debate about what we teach in our schools and when we should teach it, is more than a pre-election education row. It is a Kulturkampf. It reflects, in a very fundamental way, a contest for the soul of our society. Worryingly, it is turning into a war between parents and politicians.