SPUC have done a stirling job in highlighting the collusion between the CES and the Government in drawing up the Children, Schools and Families Bill which is up for its third reading on Tuesday 23rd February.
SPUC have also produced a clear summary of the main areas of the Bill which are of concern to anyone wishing to follow Catholic teaching.
Collusion is not too strong a word - the CES has actively worked with the Government to draw up this Bill, which prevents parents from having a say in how their children are educated. Betrayal is another word that springs to mind. The Catholics of England and Wales support the CES financially through collections held in church. I have no wish to give money to any non-Catholic education services (I already pay taxes for that purpose, thank you very much!) I would, therefore, expect the CES to be fighting to uphold the rights of Catholic schools to teach the Catholic faith, in its entirety... and without outside interference.
We are not attempting to impose religious beliefs on anyone else, we just want the right to educate our children in line with those beliefs. That includes having the right to withdraw children from classes which are promoting a way of life contrary to those beliefs.
What really underlines the disgraceful attitude of the CES is the self-congratulatory tone of its pronouncements. In a statement made on 5 November 2009:
"As age and growing independence brings young people ever closer to pressures, advertising and coercion to behaviour which can undermine the healthy life of young people, we are comforted in the knowledge that our schools and colleges will do an exceptional job in providing Sex and Relationships Education, set within the teachings of the Catholic Church."
Really? In my experience, the schools look to the CES for guidance. If the CSF Bill has been drawn up with the active help and advice of the CES, then it must be ok to teach that stuff, mustn't it?
And then there is the stunning incompetence of the CES. In a clarification, the CES states:
"The proposals announced by Ed Balls today confirm that, from September 2011, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, including Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), will be compulsory in all schools. We welcome the government’s reiteration of its support for the important principles underlining SRE, which emphasise that schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught in PSHE within their schools and that governing bodies retain the right to determine what is taught, and must determine this in line with the ethos of the school."
The Government, however, has rather a different view, which a simple question from parents seems to have been able to ascertain...
"Let's be absolutely clear, faith schools cannot opt out of statutory PSHE and SRE (sex and relationships education) lessons when it comes into effect in September 2011.
"All maintained schools and academies will be required to teach the full programmes of study in line with the principles outlined in the Bill including promoting equality and encouraging acceptance of diversity."
So, to suggest that Catholic schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught is an example of gross incompetence.
And, once again, SPUC has done a first class job of debunking the latest attempts of the CES to claim credit for getting the Government to back down on the CSF Bill.
Perhaps, in these times of financial constraints, it is time for the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales to reconsider its funding of the CES, since that body appears to be nothing more than a mouthpiece for the latest Government education policy.
UPDATE: There is also Damian Thompson's excellent article, where he comes to much the same conclusion as me...