What's all this then?

I tweet too much. So I needed somewhere else to start storing all the words. This is it. Think of it as the external hard drive for my thoughts.

I don't have an obesssion, a dream, a fixation or a hook, so don't be expecting a focus here. It's like great big lumps of my twitterings. You may see teaching stuff, rants, maternal anxiety and occasional sojourns away from reality.

Anyway, I like a nice chat so we should talk. By we, I of course mean me...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Gove letters straight from the heart.

This is a follow up post to …."Yes Sir we have no bananas today" because I wrote to my MP about the whole Sex Ed Bill thing and, my goodness, had a letter back. It turns out he forwarded my letter to Mr Gove, and so I also have a copy of Gove’s response.

I get ahead of myself. Let’s recap.

What is the Sex Ed Bill?
The Sex Ed Bill is a 10 minute Bill proposed by Nadine Dorries, which gets its second hearing in January. Dorries proposes, amongst other things, that girls be taught abstinence as part of their Sex Ed. She doesn’t feel that current teaching deals with the pressure to have sex and that girls need to be taught to say no.

Which is bad because....
It’s utter nonsense. Nonsense of the most perfidious kind because it hides a multitude of dangers.
Firstly, there is no documented proof that abstinence reduces teenage pregnancy rates. It is not a commonly adopted policy, I’m only aware of it being taught in the US, where it has failed to achieve its aims. The current Teenage Pregnancy strategy in the UK is lowering pregnancy rates.

Less obvious, and more worrying though, are the underlying messages here. Girls are given responsibility for managing the sexual side of their relationships, mostly by saying no to mean old boys. This creates an unequal power balance. It makes girls more responsible for sexual health and contraception. It also creates a climate where seeking advice on sexual health or worries is Wrong and Bad for girls. I believe this paves the way for further rises in STIs amongst young people, and puts young women more at risk of abuse and sexual assault in relationships.

Amidst the nonsense, Nadine Dorries lies about what is taught in schools. Maybe it’s just good old fashioned ignorance on her part, in which case she shouldn’t be let anywhere near a Sex Ed Bill, but I’m inclined to believe she knows full well kids aren’t taught to put condoms on in primary school. However, it makes for great headlines and Dorries does love a headline. Let’s not let the truth stand in the way of that.

So, what did I say to my MP?

Well, in addition to outlining my concerns as above, I explained to him exactly how Sex and Relationships Education is taught, as in my original post here. I made him aware of the high teenage pregnancy rate in his constituency relative to other local areas and how the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy is reducing it. His response indicates that this point at least hit home, as I suspected it might.
So, my MP passed on my concerns to Michael Gove.  I’m no great fan of Gove as Education Secretary, as …."EBac: Victorian Delivery after years of modern education" may indicate. To be honest, I’m not sure he understands the nature and needs of modern education.  However, for the record, this is what Gove says in his letter about SRE in schools,

“I remain convinced that schools are best placed to decide the content and presentation of SRE lessons and to tailor them to their particular pupils and to the ethos of the school.  It is possible for schools to engage in a much more meaningful dialogue with parents at a local level than it is from central Government.  Although we shall need to await the outcome of Ms Nadine Dorries’s Bill, I have no plans to specify the teaching of abstinence for any age group and would want to trust schools to handle this issue appropriately and sensitively.”

(Any grammatical errors are Mr Gove’s own.)

What does this mean?

Well, on the plus side, I think this is a pretty clear indication that there will be no statutory changes to SRE. Mr Gove is as clear as a politician can be that Ms Dorries agenda is not the same as that of the Dept for Education.

On the down side, it means no statutory changes for SRE.  This is a disappointment to anyone who supported the SRE Steering Committee’s recommendations to remove the legal parental right to withdrawal. It also leaves a lot of leeway for schools to not provide good SRE for reasons of school ethos, (perhaps some faith schools?) or sensitive issues. Hmmm. I don’t think that there should be exemptions from SRE at a local level, but I am going to try to be optimistic about Gove’s response. And you really have no idea how hard that is for me, as my usual response to anything from Gove involves the hurling of derision/abuse/small projectiles.

I suspect the leniency towards Dorries’ entirely bonkernuts attitude to SRE is just another example of how our current Government allows ludicrous ideas to be thrown into the media just to see if anyone objects and whether they can get away with it... What, you mean people *don’t* want to dismantle the NHS? Oh, well we’ll have another look at that then.

Meanwhile, as we all get hot under the collar about silly old Nadine’s involvement in Education, Gove will continue to centralise control of Education way beyond the usual remit of an Education minister, introduce ridiculous reading lists for children, reduce Teacher Training places for the Arts and Music, and ensure that secondary education doesn’t prioritise any of that modern nonsense like ICT.

Oh dear, looks like my glass is less than half-full again. Time to open another bottle...


  1. I like it - Go Birdy, You deserve to open another bottle.

  2. Thanks Ali.... don't mind if I do... time for Wine and Waters.


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