The Jewish Chronicle

Hinds crushes Charedi ‘flexibilit­y’ hopes


EDUCATION SECRETARY Damian Hinds has made it clear that Charedi schools reluctant to teach LGBT equality will be unlikely to be allowed delay it until the sixth form.

While the government’s new relationsh­ips and sex education policy states children should be taught about LGBT relationsh­ips before they leave school, it allows schools to decide the appropriat­e age to introduce such topics.

But in an interview with the JC, Mr Hinds has suggested that the flexibilit­y in the policy will only go so far.

“I don’t think waiting until sixth form is the appropriat­e way to do that,” he said. “The age of [sexual] consent is 16 and that guides a number of things in the way we address these matters.”

Most Charedi schools do not have a sixth form, so being free to delay discussion of LGBT content until children are older would have let them off the hook.

The Department for Education’s guidance on relationsh­ips and sex education (RSE) had taken into account that there were different communitie­s with “somewhat different outlooks,” Mr Hinds observed.

“But that does not mean it is ok not to know about the society you are growing up in.”

There were, he said, “families with same-sex parents and children do need to know about the society they are growing up in. It’s both a reality and it is also a matter of law you can marry as a same-sex couple”.

Every child, he said, “needs to know that. And as you get older, going through teens, frankly of any religious denominati­on, there will be some children who are grappling with, coming to terms with thinking about their own identity, their own sexuality.

“And I think it is important for those children to be able to have a safe opportunit­y to cover it.”

The question of teaching children about same-sex couples has become increasing­ly fraught following protests outside a number of state primary schools, mostly by Muslim parents.

Earlier this month, a group of 50 MPs signed a letter — instigated by Labour MPs Emma Hardy and Jack Dromey — urging Mr Hinds to make teaching about families with same-sex parents compulsory for primary schools.

BBC1 broadcast a Panorama programme about the controvers­y over the subject on Monday evening. The programme quoted Judith Nemeth — who runs the newly created Values Foundation and is a former head of the now defunct National Associatio­n of Orthodox Jewish Schools — as saying, “There’s no way that people of faith will teach it’s ok to be gay. They won’t because the Bible tells us it isn’t ok to be gay.

“But that doesn’t mean that we are intolerant of people who do follow that lifestyle,” she added. “Nobody’s being judgmental here, nobody’s being homophobic.”

When it was put to Mr Hinds that some parents believed it was for them, not schools, to discuss issues of sexuality, he defended the new RSE policy.

“The question is not whether children are going to hear about LGBT matters or other matters of sexuality, the question is how and when they are going to hear about them,” he told the JC.

“Would you rather that happens in the playground or increasing­ly on the internet, stumbling across material which may not be presented in the way that any of us would want it to be presented? Or it is it better to cover it in class with a teacher?”

Asked about schools that felt unable to talk about LGBT people, he said, “We do expect schools to comply with the law… We want to work with schools to help them do that.”

Mr Hinds also indicated that the government would be looking at how to bring unregister­ed yeshivot — in which many boys in Hackney are educated — under closer state scrutiny. They are currently exempt from Ofsted inspection.

“At the moment, covering only religious content in a religious setting, you don’t count as a school,” he said.

“But I think it is reasonable to say that if you are open during normal school hours and you are educating children of school age and there isn’t the opportunit­y of going to another school as well consistent with that, to most people that’s a school.

“I don’t have immediate legislatio­n to unveil today but we will come back to that matter.”

We do expect schools to comply with the law’

 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES ?? Education Secretary Damian Hinds
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES Education Secretary Damian Hinds
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