Ed Balls talking “nonsense” on Sex Ed, not Accord

February 19, 2010

The Accord Coalition has strongly defended its claims that a government u-turn on Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) could lead to homophobia in schools and has parallels with Section 28, and argued that Ed Balls has misunderstood or misrepresented the impact of the amendment.

Section 28 undermined Sex and Relationships Education for a generation by preventing local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality. If the new amendment is passed then faith schools will be able to ignore the principles of “accuracy”, “balance”, “promotion of equality” and “tolerance of diversity” if these conflict with its religious character. Approximately one third of schools in Britain are faith schools.

Ed Balls has claimed that this is “nonsense”, and that the impact of the new amendment is simply to allow faith schools to represent the religion of the school as one view among others, while still being required to deliver the full curriculum in a way that is accurate, balanced and promotes equality.

Speaking in response, Accord Coalition Chair Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said:

“Ed Balls’ claims about the impact of his amendment are untrue – either he and his department have misunderstood their own amendment or they are misrepresenting it.

“The drafting of the amendment is clear: the religious character of faith schools will trump all of the other principles by which PSHE should be taught, even if this means condoning homophobia or giving pupils inaccurate information. If Ed Balls agrees that this would be unacceptable then it is up to him to withdraw the amendment.”

“Ed Balls said that faith schools will be able “express the views of their faith”, but will have to teach the full programmes of study in line with the principles outlined in the Bill including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity. It is a strange irony he has accurately described the impact the bill would have if he dropped the amendment that we are objecting to.”

Unamended the Bill would require schools, including faith schools, to reflect a reasonable range of religious and cultural perspectives, and to take account of the religious and cultural backgrounds of pupils. These pluralistic provisions are among those that, under the government’s latest proposals, faith schools will be exempted from if they conflict with the school’s religious character.

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