Talking to Catholic Education Services

Blogged by James Preece on 10th February 2010

One of the criticisms I frequently receive as a blogger is that I blog about things but don't do anything about them, or that I blog about things, but don't talk to the people involved directly.

I decided that rather than just ranting about Catholic Education Services, I should write to them...

(When I say "write", I mean "email", it's not 1964 you know)

9th December 2009

Does CES have anything to say in response to the comments from John Smeaton, the director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) who said yesterday that:

The British government's providing access to children with abortion and abortifacients and preparing them for sexual activity is the worst development in Britain since the passing of the Abortion Act. Citizens whose children attend both faith and non-faith schools must resist the wicked government policy which robs our children of their innocence and which kills our grandchildren. The government's proposals for compulsory sex education, if not blocked, will result in a massive promotion of embryo-killing drugs and devices in schools, including Catholic schools.

It is therefore incumbent upon the Catholic Education Service (CES) in England and Wales to reverse its general support for compulsory sex education. The CES should also stop welcoming Connexions into Catholic schools. Connexions is a government agency which is committed to giving schoolchildren, under the age of 16, access to abortion and abortifacients without parental knowledge or permission. Connexions' advisers are trained to tell young people that they can obtain abortion and abortifacients without parental knowledge or consent.

These are strong remarks from the director of a highly respected organisation and as a parent I am deeply concerned,

Regards,

James Preece

A few days later I received a response...

17th December 2009

Dear James,

CESEW has not been copied into SPUC’s communications regarding the recent government proposals relating to Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education. However, you may find the attached document helpful as a means of clarifying what these proposals mean for Catholic schools and colleges.

With best wishes,

[Name]

I tell them that as a parent I am deeply concerned because they have been criticised by one of the worlds most respected pro-life organisations. They respond that "they have not been copied in to SPUC's communications" - not helpful.

As I would learn, this policy of ignoring a question and instead directing somebody to a resource seems to be standard CES policy.

The file they attached file was the CES document setting the record straight and like many parents I was not impressed by the contents.

I was particulaly annoyed by this part of the document...

5) CESEW strongly wishes that the parental right of withdrawal of their children from SRE could have remained throughout statutory years of schooling.

However, we can also see the potential benefits of all young people receiving appropriate SRE, perhaps, most particularly as they approach the age of 16 with all the opportunities and rights offered to young people at that age.

We were also mindful of the legal advice that had been provided to the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) on this issue. In making their decision to limit the right of parental withdrawal from sex education, DCSF say that they were acknowledging “the trend in the development of English law over many years towards greater autonomy for children when they are of an age to make decisions for themselves”.

I was annoyed because they write as though the whole thing were a done deal. They wish it could have happened - this is not good enough - they should be campaigning hard to ensure that it does happen. Instead they are speaking soothing words in to the ears of Bishops to ensure that nothing is done.

Then they repeat the government lie that this is about "greater autonomy for children". So I responded...

18th December 2009

Hi [Name],

The document refers to "the trend in the development of English law over many years towards greater autonomy for children when they are of an age to make decisions for themselves" - does this mean young people aged fifteen will be able to withdraw themselves from sex education classes?

Many Thanks

James

They replied...

18th December 2009

Dear James,

DCSF ought to be able to answer your query. To contact them, telephone 0870 000 2288 or email info@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

With best wishes,

[Name]

Again, I ask a question, they ignore the question and direct me somewhere else.

So a Catholic parent emails the Catholic Education Services to ask about the rights of Catholic school children in Catholic schools as described in a Catholic Education Services document and the response is: Ask the government.

Now very annoyed, I responded...

18th December 2009

[Name],

Please don't pass the buck. The CES are acting on DCSF advice and ought to follow it up - it is a contradiction to claim autonomy for children when actually none has been granted and the decision has simply shifted from "the parents decide" to "the government decide".

Either the ability to choose whether a child attends sex education lessons lays with the parent or with the child or with the government. I don't think it's unreasonable for a parent to ask the following questions of CES:

- Who currently has the power to make this decision? The parent, the child or the government?
- Under the new laws, who will have the power to make this decision? The parent, the child or the government?
- Where do CES believe the decision should lie and at what ages?

Many Thanks,

James

I waited. I waited until I had almost forgotten all about it until Eric Hestor wrote in the Herald and reminded me, I emailed again...

2nd February 2010

Hi [Name],

I sent this email to you over a month ago. I repeat my questions now:

Either the ability to choose whether a child attends sex education lessons lays with the parent or with the child or with the government. I don't think it's unreasonable for a parent to ask the following questions of CES:

- Who currently has the power to make this decision? The parent, the child or the government?
- Under the new laws, who will have the power to make this decision? The parent, the child or the government?
- Where do CES believe the decision should lie and at what ages?

Thanks

James Preece

Yesterday for the first time - over two months since I first emailed CES, I finally received an actual direct response to a question...

Sort of.

Dear James,

The Government’s proposals, as they currently stand in the Children, Schools and Families Bill, give parents the right to withdraw their child from PSHE classes until the child’s 15th birthday. DCSF have informed CESEW that, if the Bill is passed in its current form, children will not be able to withdraw themselves from PSHE classes. For CESEW position statements and briefing papers on PSHE, and SRE in particular, please refer to the dedicated section of our website: www.cesew.org.uk/sre

This should now bring this correspondence to a close.

We keep our website fully up to date on developments regarding our work on SRE – please use this resource in future if you have any further queries.

With best wishes

[Name]

They answer the question and then they say "in future, don't bother us with your questions, read our website".

In terms of my question the contradiction is clear. The CES Setting the record straight document said that CES wished we could still pull our children from sex education classes but we can't because of a "trend" in the law towards "greater autonomy for children". Now CES say there will be no autonomy for children, who "will not be able to withdraw themselves from PSHE classes".

So the decision has not moved from parents to children. The decision has moved from parents to the government.

What bothers me more though is how difficult they make it to get a straight answer to a question. How they wriggle and jiggle to avoid stating directly what they must know to be true...

That their position is untenable.