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Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has written to schools regarding Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) resources after previously writing to schools on 31 March 2023 reminding them that parents are allowed to request to see teaching resources.
Keegan says the latest letter is to “debunk the copyright myth that parents cannot see what their children are being taught” and to “encourage” parents “to have confidence in their right to know what their children are seeing and being taught in the classroom”
This comes after Miriam Cates MP launched a private members bill to give parents the legal right to see materials used in relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons and prohibit schools from using any externally produced teaching resources that are not available for public scrutiny.
The bill has the support of over 70 MPs and is based on reports produced by Cate’s New Social Covenant (NSC) organisation and the opaquely funded Policy Exchange think tank that made unverified claims regarding inappropriate sexually explicit content being taught.
The campaign against “secret lesson plans” was founded by Clare Page who is linked to the group Don’t Divide Us (DDU) who created a guide for parents to search for teachers seeking to indoctrinate children with dangerous ideologies, recommending they collect information, scrutinise behaviour systems, provide the DDU approved reading list and make suggestions about what should be taught. The site has a form for parents to report “controversial materials.” Don’t Divide Us is linked to a number of organisations that appear intent on importing US-style culture wars into the UK which has led to authoritarian anti-LGBT+ legislation in Republican states.
Cates claims some schools are refusing to share resources and lesson plans, particularly those produced by third-party organisations. This was after Cates raised the issue of “explicit” sex education lessons in parliament at Prime Minister Questions in March based on her own NSC report. In response, Sunak announced an upcoming review of RSE would be brought forward and Education Secretary Gillian Keagan MP wrote to schools to remind them to make RSE materials available to parents.
Geof Barton, General Secretary of the school leaders’ union ASCL criticised Keegan for giving the impression the review is “now happening in response to some sort of calamity” and questioned the validity of Keegan’s statement. “Claims made about inappropriate teaching are overblown, sweeping and supported by evidence which is flimsy at best,” Barton said.
As previously reported by the Byline Times NSC was founded by Cates, fellow Conservative MP Danny Kruger and Imogen Sinclair based on a manifesto following US Christian Nationalist ideology. All three spoke at the National Conservatism conference reported on by the Byline Times and the Byline Times Supplement. In her speech, Sinclair – who sits on the NatCon UK committee – referred to pride flags being “pornified” and “used inappropriately or even perversely to serve a purpose other than co-creating bonds of trust between people…This is pomp porn.”
Over a hundred pages in length, the NSC report provides little evidence beyond anonymous anecdotes to support controversial claims that “young children” are being taught about anal sex, and shown unspecified “sexually explicit” content.
Some examples appear to be misrepresenting resources cited as evidence/ For instance the claim children were taught “how to choke your partner safely”, references a website clearly stating it’s only intended for an adult audience and doesn’t appear to be in any school’s curriculum.
The NSC report was followed by a report by Policy Exchange regarding schools’ approaches to transgender students. Listed by Transparify as one of the think tanks with the least transparent funding, Policy Exchange was founded in 2007 by Michael Gove MP who was also a speaker at NatCon UK. Calling for parents to be automatically informed if their child expresses questions about their gender, the report was condemned by LGBT+ campaigners for misrepresenting safeguarding rules.
The NSC and Policy Exchange reports both reference secret lesson plans which Cates’ bill proposes to address. While there has been much media coverage of secret lesson plans the majority of reporting has centred on the case of Clare Page.
“Page recently lost a legal appeal to disclose sex education lessons after the Judge decided that, since DfE’s transparency guidance is not statutory, commercial interests outweigh the public interest in viewing the materials,” Miriam Cates explained.
However, the Judge didn’t prevent parents from seeing lesson resources. Page’s legal appeal was for copies of all lesson plans and materials to be made publicly available, her original case to the Information Commissioner’s Office called for a PSHE teacher’s identity to be publicly revealed.
There is also the issue of what content these “secret lesson plans” contained. A member of staff at the school where Page made her complaint has informed the Byline Times that a number of the PSHE lessons were taught remotely during lockdown meaning parents were able to observe. In line with DfE guidance the school Page’s child attended has stated “PSHE curriculum was discussed at a parents forum where all the parents were supportive except one”, bringing into question the accusations of secrecy.
An Array of Right Wing Connections
Page has founded No Secret Lesson plans and is listed as a writer and supporter of Don’t Divide Us (DDU) which is partnered with Claire Fox’s Academy of Ideas and the Equiano Project founded by GB News presenter Inaya Folarin Iman who was formally a Brexit Party candidate and is linked to the Free Speech Union.
DDU’s director is Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, also a former Brexit Party candidate. The Advisory Council includes Iman, former Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard and Tony Sewell who led the government’s Commission into Race and Ethnic Disparities which controversially concluded there was no institutional racism in the UK.
DDU and the Equiano Project are both supported by controversial headteacher Katherine Birbalsingh who spoke about pupils identifying as cats at NatCon before becoming embroiled in the debate around a secret recording in a classroom as reported by Otto English.
As has occurred with many of these reports the government responded with Ofsted scrambling an emergency inspection team to the school in question. The team found that there was no evidence of a student identifying as a cat.
Clare Page’s No Secret Lesson Plans group were contacted for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.