Parents have a right to know what our children are taught

Parents have a right to know what our children are taught, says JENNI MURRAY

  • After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, a violent image was shown to 13-year-olds in an art class 
  • Concerned, the parents of one girl at Haberdashers’ Hatcham College complained, and asked to see copies of lesson plans
  • Jenni Murray argues that parents have a right to know what their kids are taught

There’s a great deal of trust involved when you accompany your child to school and hand them over to a teacher. You believe that they will keep your offspring safe and give them the chance to learn to read, write and do sums. 

You hope they will also support them to make friends, protect them from bullying and teach them to understand and discuss the world in which they are growing up. You trust the school to offer lessons that are rooted in known and verified facts. 

So, what on earth do you do when your child comes home and reports they are learning things you do not agree with or support — and their teacher, whom you should be able to trust, responds by saying that they simply can’t tell you anything about it?

It’s a question that arose this week at a state secondary school in South-East London, where teenagers were reportedly taught that some of their number had ‘white privilege’ and were part of ‘discriminatory systems of power’. In other words, a string of buzzwords linked to the identity politics that has taken hold in the United States. 

After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, a violent image was shown to 13-year-olds in an art class. Concerned, the parents of one girl at Haberdashers’ Hatcham College complained, and asked to see copies of lesson plans

After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, parents say a violent image was shown to 13-year-olds in an art class. The poster depicted white and black people stabbing each other. 

Posters produced by the children in response showed an image of a girl being shot in the head and slogans such as ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards). A song by the rapper Dave was played to students which included the line ‘our Prime Minister is a real racist’. 

Concerned, the parents of one girl at Haberdashers’ Hatcham College complained, and asked to see copies of lesson plans so that, as parents, they could judge whether the curriculum was unacceptable for their daughter. 

It seems a perfectly reasonable request. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own child. And you don’t sign away that authority at the school gates. 

Remember, a parent has the right to withdraw their child from sex education or religious education if they feel such subjects are unsuitable for their family. 

I remember as a very little girl being sent to a Catholic junior school, because its academic reputation was unmatched. We were not Catholic, so my parents asked for me to be excluded from religious education and assemblies. Instead, they sent me to a Church of England Sunday school. Their decision did me no harm and I was rather relieved not to be taught, at the age of six, that any misdemeanors I committed would result in me burning in the fires of Hell. 

Jenni Murray (pictured) argues that parents have a right to know what their kids are being taught in class

But the family in the recent case were told that any mother or father can ask to have a lesson plan, but the school is not legally obliged to provide it. 

What? It’s outrageous for the school system to assume that what a child is being taught is basically no business of the parents. What’s happening here is the politicisation of the curriculum. It is profoundly wrong for details of what children are learning to be considered secret. Why would a school consider it OK to keep something so vital to a young person’s development, understanding and capacity to think and question under wraps? 

And yet it seems to be an increasingly common attitude. So how do you react when your child says someone in a sex education class told them, for example, that there were dozens of different genders, and that anyone can change their biological sex? 

Faced with that situation, I would have to respond that the school was wrong. And then, as a parent, I’d have to ask myself why I did not know such nonsense was being taught to my child as fact. 

Clare Page, the mother in question, had complained before about lessons on race, sex and gender, and came to believe her daughter was being indoctrinated. 

This latest controversy proved to be the final straw. Mrs Page has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the issue – and has taken her daughter out of the school. 

All these matters — race, gender and sex — have come to the fore in recent years. Yes, it is essential that young people discuss and understand them. But they are highly political and need to be handled with great care. 

I recall, when choosing a school for my two boys, asking serious questions about how the head teachers would handle impressing upon all their male pupils the importance of equality between the sexes. 

One seemed not to know what I was talking about. Another said he had a couple of ‘ladies’ in the art department. A third said there would be discussions about housework and washing up for the little ones, consent for the big ones and he had brought women in to teach maths and physics. 

Boys, he said, needed to know that women were not only good at art and English. 

That’s the school I went for. My choice. My right as a parent to know. 

These WAGs can change the world 

Carrie Johnson and Brigitte Macron in Germany this week while their husbands put the world to rights. Jenni Murray questions why they consent to being photographed like this 

A row of highly intelligent, powerful women pictured looking decorative on a hike in the German countryside while their husbands put the world to rights. Why do they consent to being photographed like this? They’re the wives of world leaders, not the World Cup footballers’ WAGs on the strut in Baden-Baden. Stop it. Get round the table. Do something useful. 

Victoria Brignell (pictured) was stuck on a plane for an hour-and-a-half, because there was no one to lift her into a wheelchair

Airlines are failing disabled travellers 

My very bad back means I can’t walk far and assistance at the airport is essential. All too often, I’ve been stuck on the plane, waiting for a wheelchair. When I came back from the States recently, all went smoothly — so I dared to hope airlines were finally sorting out this tricky problem. But then I heard my former colleague Victoria Brignell’s horror story of being stuck on a plane for an hour-and-a-half, because there was no one to lift her into a wheelchair. Unlike Victoria, who is paralysed, I can get up and walk if I have to. For her, there’s no choice, and it’s sickening she was left without help. This isn’t new. It’s gone on for years and demonstrates total disregard for disability. It’s inhumane and must be sorted now. 

  • WhatsApp from Zoriana, now temporarily back at home in Lviv, following renewed bombing in Kyiv and the destruction of a shopping mall in central Ukraine. ‘Everything so bad. I cry every day. Poor people. What for?’ What for indeed? 

My postie’s not really a caring type

Jenni says that there is little consistency in who delivers her mail. They rarely put letters in her postbox

Not sure, as an elderly person, that I’d trust my postie to keep an eye on me, as has been suggested this week. It’s never the same one who shows up at my door, so there’d be little consistency. They sometimes come at the crack of dawn, other times late at night. They rarely put letters in the postbox I’ve stuck next to the front door and instead shove them through the door to be devoured by the dogs. And worst of all, half the time they bring me post belonging to a neighbour a few streets away, just because we have a similar sounding address. 

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