WHAT to do when the government steamrollers over parents’ protest and imposes Relationships education on children that would make an adult blush? One answer is to bang the table and protest to friends. Another is to set up a body which even in its name challenges the government’s amorphous claim that all is being done in the name of British Values.
Values? The new Values Foundation points out that what gave Britain our freedom and our culture is the Judeo-Christian heritage which has shaped us for generations: our laws, institutions, system of government and, yes, our family values. It is these core values which are now under threat.
The Values Foundation for Faith and Families in Education was launched in the Houses of Parliament on 25 March. Mrs Judith Nemeth, Executive Director, explained that it has three primary aims: to represent faith schools and their families (and anyone else with a traditional approach to family values) before government and its agencies; to open a debate on what British values are and so recover respect for faith in the public square, and to revisit the Equality Act of 2010, to resolve what happens legally when two or more protected characteristics clash. At present, one characteristic is often found to be unfairly ‘protected’ above others.
A fourth goal has arisen in response to the government’s pushing ahead with its new Relationships and Sex Education Guidance despite overwhelming opposition from parents and others. The new Board realised that it needed a lobbying arm. This would garner the ground support which is evidently waiting to be captured and build up a head of steam to help turn the way education is going in this country. This is their new 40 Days Campaign. Anyone can register by pledging £1. This will grow a needed fund, but it is also a device whereby anyone can support the cause without leaving a name, allowing those to take part who might otherwise be embarrassed to do so. Have a look at the web page. It is a visual treat.
The name was chosen because of the 40-day limit between laying a Statutory Instrument and having it accepted by Parliament, but the number 40 has pleasing faith overtones. The Chosen People wandered in the desert for 40 years, Moses was 40 days on Mount Horeb before receiving the Ten Commandments, there are 40 days of Lent, and more recently there is the 40 Days for Life campaign. Each of these happenings have connotations of purification and change.
Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University, explained in his keynote speech why he prized each of the words contained in the Foundation’s name: Values, Faith, Families and Education. He lamented that we have allowed schools to be hollowed out, educating children for careers but neglecting their imaginative, creative and social potential. We educate the intellectual brain and too often leave out young people’s bodies, hearts and souls, creating a void into which ideologies walk.
Without the fullness of school education, children learn about relationships from television and porn. This gives a hopelessly distorted caricature of the human person, the more so given that few films celebrate human love and goodness. Another lack is touch. A few bad people have made touch dangerous, but touch is often better able to convey human warmth and kindness than words, especially to small children and those who are hurting. He strongly advocated that every school should have a dog.
The young learn most from what people do, rather than from what they say. John Major’s Back to Basics campaign had a lot to it, but neither the politicians nor the country was in a mood to accept it, especially from John Major. Teachers, too, can be frightened of being exposed by claiming truths which they find it difficult to live up to themselves.
Sir Anthony particularly welcomed a Foundation which would bring the faith groups together. Too often faiths can be portrayed as clashing with each other in a way which has more to do with individual egos than with the truth of God.
There were various comments from the floor supporting the need for the new Foundation, which Mrs Nemeth promised would keep to an assertive rather than loud-mouthed or bullying tone. One strong plea came from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, who said that as a Christian politician it can be difficult to stand up for faith values in a public square which is increasingly silent on the subject. We need people of all sorts to stand up openly for their faith and not to be frightened of claiming their rights.
There can be no doubt that this The Values Foundation will be doing. We shall be hearing a lot more from it in the future.