Sunday, March 05, 2023

Christian schools trust criticised over policy on offensive language

 Aquinas Church of England Education Trust | LinkedIn

A Christian trust running 11 schools has told teachers to “re-educate” children who make such comments as “that is mental” and “stop acting like a girl”.

But last week the Aquinas Church of England Education Trust was warned by a former education adviser that its approach appeared could backfire by turning controversial phrases into “forbidden fruit”.

The trust, named after St Thomas Aquinas, has moved to challenge “negative language and actions” in its equality, equity, diversity and inclusion policy.

Its schools, in south-east London, Kent and East Sussex, are urged to “challenge negative language and actions, re-educating and using sanctions where appropriate”. Sanctions would follow repeated offences.

For direct name calling involving sexuality or disability, “the form tutor/pastoral leader must give a sanction, such as a phone call home, detention, community service”.

Retired headteacher Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education and a former education adviser to David Cameron when he was prime minister, said the trust's approach was wrong.

He said that “while certain children will take the policy seriously, others could be drawn to the phrases deemed as not acceptable and will see it as a challenge”.

He added: “Re-education is a very unfortunate term as it is associated with authoritarian and totalitarian thinking.”

Mr McGovern said the schools should instead “give a broad view” of the issue and talk about the impact of “certain types of language”.

The Aquinas Trust runs ten primary schools in Bromley, Chislehurst and Penge in south-east London, Keston and Westerham in Kent, along with Rye in East Sussex, and one secondary school, Rye College.

The trust said: “This policy has been developed with the trust’s Christian values and principles as its basis. The entitlement to develop, learn and work in an environment free from discrimination is implicit in the trust’s Christian ethos, the core of which is the ultimate worth and dignity of every human being before God.”