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Parental rights vs. the equality duty: what the law really says

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The Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska discusses how British schools have moved away from teaching basic primary education, instead choosing to focus on teaching the ideology of inclusivity. Roger explains the reality of their legal obligation and how many schools are not fulfilling it.
 

The Talking Point

Increasingly, British schools are lagging behind schools from other countries in teaching children the primary elements of education: such as reading, writing and arithmetic. In turn they are spending much more time exposing children to ideological education on issues such as transgender theory and sexual orientation. Schools have defended themselves with the same talking point; that the Equality Act requires them to ‘educate’ children about the protected characteristics. This article will explore that question, looking at what the law actually requires and juxtaposing that against its more fundamental obligation to respect parental rights by not undermining a family’s ability to raise their children according to their own faith beliefs on such sensitive matters.
 

The Human Rights Act 1998

The position of the Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to parental rights is very simple and straightforward. Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, as transposed into UK law through the Human Rights Act, requires the state – and by extension schools – to respect the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions. Schools are forbidden from engaging in any form of moral or social proselytising or indoctrination as this directly undermines parental rights. This right is fortified by Articles 14 and 18 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, which lays clear the reality that parents have the primary responsibility of raising and educating their children. The role of schools is to assist parents in this task, and not to usurp the parental mantle.
 

The Equality Duty

In contrast, there is no obligation, stemming from the Equality Act 2010, to promote or affirm either sexual orientations or gender reassignment. The only statutory obligation relates not to the content of the curriculum but to how it is taught (i.e. teaching of the curriculum must have “due regard” to eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and it must foster good relations among people. Both of these objectives can be done in a manner consistent with upholding biblical truths).

Under section 78 of the Education Act 2002 and the Academies Act 2010, schools must provide a “balanced and broadly-based curriculum’ which promotes ‘the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences later in life.”Later guidance from the Department of Education suggests that this includes a duty to teach tolerance, British values and mutual respect among the protected characteristics.

In fact, the content of the national curriculum is specifically excluded from the Equality Act 2010. Section 89(2) states: “Nothing in this Chapter applies to anything done in connection with the content of the curriculum.”

The only equality duty owed has two parts: the ‘general’ duty and the ‘specific’ duty. The general duty is the overarching legal requirement for schools and means they must consider how their policies, practices and day-to-day activities impact on pupils and staff. Schools are required to have “due regard” to the need to:

  • Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
  • Advance equality of opportunity.
  • Foster good relations.

To help schools meet these general duties, two further specific duties have applied to schools since 2012. They are:

  • To publish information to show how they are complying with the Equality Duty. This must be updated at least annually.
  • To prepare and publish one or more specific and measurable equality objectives at least every four years.

“Due regard”has been defined by the Department of Education, in advice provided for school leaders and governors, as: “The duty to have ‘due regard’ to equality considerations means that whenever significant decisions are being made or policies developed, thought must be given to the equality implications.”
 

Conclusion

This is the sum total of the equality duty, none of which sets any requirement to endorse (or acquiesce to) LGB or trans activist campaigning points, same-sex ‘marriage’ or parenting. This is important because it draws a clear line where the equality duty stops and where the school’s obligations under the Human Rights Act begin.

Parents should be aware of their rights in relation to what ideas their children are being exposed to. Distressingly, the education our children receive today is a reflection of our politically and ideologically charged society. When campaign groups have a larger say than parents about what ideas are being presented to our children in an effort to win the hearts and minds of our youngest and most impressionable, it is times for parents and churches alike to stand up and have their voices heard en masse.

Stonewall, the leading LGBT campaigners in the United Kingdom, have made no bones about their intentions. They want to transform institutions, like schools, and win hearts and minds. They want to re-write the national curriculum to promote LGBT issues. And in the words of Stonewall’s Chief Executive Ruth Hunt, in language which is almost religious in nature, they want to transform individuals so that one person can reach ten more in promotion of the LGBT agenda.

The sad reality, from our many experiences with schools over these issues, is that the opinion of Stonewall is far more highly prized than those of parents. If we want this to change, the onus is on us. Parents must act today, before we reach a cultural tipping point of no return.

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