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Schools are using teaching material provided by opaque consultancies pushing fringe views on sex and race

This article is taken from the October 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

The new school year has started with a new education secretary, Kit Malthouse — the fourth since the end of the last summer term. We so far know little about his intent, but a sensible pause has at least been placed on the poorly-drafted Schools Bill. 

Parents and campaigners will be particularly interested to see what happens to clauses on transparency of teaching materials, which came in Lords’ amendments just as schools were going on their long break, and offer an incremental but significant counter to the ideological encroachment on classrooms which has gathered pace since the radical summer of 2020. 

Within days of George Floyd’s murder, parents received a letter

Take my son’s school, for example. It is an esteemed independent with results consistently around the top of the league tables.  Yet it has embraced social justice politics with the competitive fervour once reserved for the rugby pitch and Oxbridge entrance. Within days of George Floyd’s murder, parents received a letter from the junior school head promising to review school practices. This was the only international event over a five-year period that provoked such a response from the school,  which was then in Covid lockdown and might have had more immediate concerns, such as getting children back to school.

Added impetus to this lurch toward activism came through Everyone’s Invited, the “Me Too” movement for schools. Its anonymous allegations of sexual impropriety levelled en masse against boys from independent schools specifically (although not actually for misdemeanours on school premises) sent our school leadership team into a reputation-preserving tailspin, allowing the charge of “toxic masculinity” to gain traction without a balancing counternarrative. 

That letter gave way to an avalanche of interventions and staff elevations: a Head of EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion), a Diversity Committee, a staff Equality and Diversity mentor, various heads of pastoral, a head of PSHE (personal, social health and economic education, that convenient curriculum osmotic for ideological indoctrination), safeguarding leads, various well-being councillors and, most worryingly, opaque external consultants on race, sexuality and sex education. All these innovations were approved by a governing body headed by a Conservative peer. 

I looked up one of the referenced consultancies, the Schools Inclusion Alliance — specifically aimed at the independent sector, and found that on race its resources came overwhelmingly from one ideological perspective and most of its pages on gender and sex education were blocked to parents.

If all this professional intervention wasn’t sufficient, school newsletters proudly announced the innovation of using older pupils as “diversity mentors” for younger ones, a sort of Maoist Ponzi scheme. Traditionally this would simply have been the importance of setting a good example, but in the age of the activist school, the prefect is replaced with the “ally”, to promote other children’s realisation of their “authentic self”, as in the ugly syntax of the school’s EDI statement. 

The sheer extent of these measures suggested a school with severe problems of racism and sexism, despite the reality being a metropolitan institution with a successful cultural and ethnic mix and popular integration of girls into the sixth form. Nevertheless, the first week back in “real” school exposed boys as young as eleven to a display dedicated to non-binary identity and asked Year 9s to take a quiz on gender stereotyping. 

In the old normal, a school year was punctuated by our national celebrations, at least nominally, around Christmas and Easter. The woke school year has its own pseudo-religious rituals. First, this autumn term brings Black History Month. This is an established cultural feature which schools can treat in a thoughtful and stimulating way rather than as an excuse to roll out hymns to Critical Race Theory (CRT). 

At our school though, staff had already been trained in “racial literacy”, which generally treats as fact that Britain is a structurally racist society built on exploitative power relationships determined by race. When the radical Brighton and Hove Council was revealed as using racial literacy training for primary school teachers, the then Education Secretary, Nadim Zahawi, initiated an enquiry. 

How must he have felt that a bastion of the independent sector, such as the school he attended, is so attuned with an avowed actively anti-racist, radical left, Green council? It is curious that all this talk of diversity so often leads to a stultifying uniformity of thought across the sector, whether in state primaries or private secondary schools. 

As staff were familiarised with the CRT mantras of “micro-aggressions” and “unconscious bias”, it was no surprise that my son’s lessons on racism were a series of presentations on the “international human rights movement” Black Lives Matter. 

We had already been assured that a “safe space” had been established for “Afro-Caribbean” pupils (sic) but with no mention of the many other ethnic or racial backgrounds represented at this admirably diverse day school. With glossy facilities and motivated staff, and parents that can afford the fees, all its pupils are privileged. A privilege for which a shared sense of appreciation would be a fine sentiment to encourage, yet it’s the reductive and divisive concept of “white privilege” that has found favour. 

In Theology and Philosophy, which could be renamed Ideology and Assertion, the school chaplain, no less, suggested to the white pupils in a mixed class that they should examine their unconscious biases, and worse, that assuming they are not racist means that they likely are. 

This message was underpinned in the library, where pupils were told that empathising with the prejudice suffered by black people might come more easily to someone with disabilities. Presumably, this was a stab at explaining “intersectionality”, the conflation of various alleged structural injustices that creates a myriad of complementary claims to victimhood for which white middle-class boys should be made to feel disproportionately responsible. 

The recommended book list read like a charter for indoctrination

The recommended book list read like a charter for indoctrination, with almost all its authors advocating so called “active” anti-racism in contrast to the widely understood, post-1960s consensus of a colour-blind approach. True to its intersectional logic, the list also included reams of recommendations for Year 9 pupils of books featuring queer and trans characters. 

No surprise, then, that the library was a nexus for the school’s “celebrations” for LGBT+ history month with an exhibition explaining various sexual identities, including “pansexuality” and “asexuality”. Parents, indeed, teachers, might reasonably ask whether overt sexualisation of the school environment might not be in breach of their safeguarding responsibilities. 

This is Sex Positivity, the lesser-known ideology of activist educators who, along with preaching different sexualities, advocate that pretty much any sexual practice, including what Department for Education-backed sex education consultancies call “kink”, should be celebrated, realised and affirmed. Among consenting adults,  if you like, but for children this approach begins to feel not so different from what might be prosecutable were it online. 

Other features of the month included a morning assembly on Quentin Crisp, a competition to redesign the school logo in rainbow colours, a music assignment to research an LGBT+ composer, and a lunchtime activity for 11 to 13-year-olds to make origami cranes (?) for a display “to increase the visibility of the LGBT+ community and to promote equality and diversity”, as well as a session billed to parents as mindfulness for nine-year-olds that morphed into a presentation on trans identity. 

This thoroughness in embedding political messaging throughout the curriculum and the culture is straight out of the activists’ playbook, but at no point have parents been consulted on this revolution, which is already well established in schools. 

I became a reluctant, but regular, correspondent, raising my concerns about teaching that seemed doctrinaire, not age-appropriate and almost certainly counter-productive. Of course, I want the school to be compassionate and broad-minded, but can that be achieved by highlighting difference and undermining common purpose? I suggested that in a fee-paying selective school, the way to really promote inclusion would be to spend less on buildings and more on bursaries. 

To the school’s credit I was awarded lengthy meetings with several staff members and thrice with the head, where I raised as a matter of pressing concern the school’s commissioning of certain external consultants to deliver PSHE seminars. I requested lesson plans in advance. This took a considerable lobbying effort because the agency involved did not make them available to the school. 

A cursory look at their websites, recommended to pupils, revealed a grimly reductive vision of sex as something practised by people unidentified by the delineations of biology, unencumbered by the responsibility of relationships and unfettered by any restraint. 

Sexual advice is delivered by a dominatrix, Instagram prompts feature cartoons of group sex and figures enhanced by strap-on sex toys. These consultancies are soaked in gender ideology to the extent that biological fact is simply rewritten, telling teenagers that sex — not just “gender” — is merely assigned at birth. 

On these sites girls and boys are simply people with vulvas and testes. Its determinist influence had already crept into the school culture with unisex toilet doors now bedecked with smart new metal signs engraved with a troika of symbols denoting trans identity and a visiting single speaker ascribed the pronoun “they”.

I had been cautious about engaging other parents whose views might not have matched my own, but over the Easter holidays a potential rallying point presented itself. The Family Sex Show, a theatre production for children from age 5 featuring nude adults and songs about sexual pleasure, made the national press. It was co-produced by one of the consultancies our school has employed. 

This seemed reason enough for the school to review its endorsement of such agencies to present PSHE seminars to boys across the middle school. A digital flurry ensued, angry fathers got involved, letters in rather blunter terms than I had used were submitted, and at the eleventh hour, contracts were torn up and the much-heralded seminars were cancelled. Instead, school staff, whom we know and trust, would cover the issues in class. A wider set of resources on race was also promised. 

We are fortunate that the school has been receptive, yet too often it has been able to fall back on the justification that its preferred external providers and their resources are endorsed by other schools, charities and by government agencies. This corporatist power play, aligning a radical cultural agenda with commercial interests, and the ever more complicated legislative framework around schools, is enabling the scope of acceptable teaching to expand and making it hard for parents (and concerned teachers) to push back against what feels like a comprehensive assault. 

Much of this has happened under Conservative governments. Prior to the leadership hiatus, the then Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, had begun to place greater emphasis upon the legal requirements for impartiality in education. But restoring impartiality remains impossible while the Department for Education and Ofsted rubber-stamp educational materials and practices that deny biology and teach uncritically that Britain is institutionally racist. 

If Kit Malthouse has the courage to give teeth to Zahawi’s guidelines then he may find that a fundamental review is required of the conflicting laws that now interfere with the primacy of the Education Act. 

What role is there for the Equalities Act and Prevent in the classroom, and the ever-growing blob of the PSHE industry in schools? Are these the routes by which such radical and age-inappropriate ideas are being introduced? 

Some Conservative MPs, notably Miriam Cates and Sir John Hayes, have taken up the cause with admirable rigour. They need to. The flag flying over our school at the close of the last term wasn’t that of the school or our national flag, but a rainbow. The end of year assembly was led by a year 11 “ally” reflecting not on the recent exam season or the holidays to come but on the “heteronormativity” of the school community. 

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