As schools go back, a survey by the Association of Christian Teachers (ACT) warns of widespread marginalisation of traditional Christian views on marriage, sexuality and gender. The government must make sure our children get a balanced education and teachers are protected, says Lizzie Harewood


In the discourse on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), concerns about safeguarding are sometimes perceived as being biased, insensitive or even intolerant. Christian organisations have faced this accusation frequently. But despite some exceptions, Christians have often stood alone in raising awareness about the safeguarding issues, harmful ideologies and child sexualisation linked to RSE resources, especially since statutory changes in 2020.

The issue gained public attention in March this year when MP Miriam Cates report on inappropriate resources led to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, ordering an urgent review of sex education materials.

I was expected to deliver material on sex education that did not include any reference to marriage

Cates said that “despite its intentions”, the new RSE framework had “opened the floodgates to a whole host of external providers who offer sex education materials to schools, and now children are being exposed across the country to a plethora of deeply inappropriate, wildly inaccurate, sexually explicit and damaging materials in the name of sex education”.

I have been deeply troubled by the contact I’ve had with Christian teachers over recent years. Our correspondence indicates that the trajectory in RSE has not been sensationalised. The concerns raised have included teachers being forced to deliver unscientific materials, class trips to Pride marches and drag queen story times for four-year-olds being held against a teacher’s wishes.

Are these anecdotes isolated (and possibly exaggerated, as some argue)? Do Christian perspectives on topics like marriage, sex, and gender genuinely receive fair consideration alongside the myriad of progressive interpretations of the curriculum?

What is really going on?

In our recent survey of Christian educators, only 31 per cent of respondents reported a “balance of opinions” within the RSE curriculum taught at their school when discussing contentious topics such as abortion and feminism. Just 20 per cent of schools did not teach gender theory (which claims biological sex and ‘gender identity’ are two distinct factors) and many engaged extensively with ideological groups such as Stonewall and Mermaids and the materials they provide.

But what was most illuminating was the qualitative feedback given by Christian teachers. Here are a selection of the comments:

“I was expected to deliver material on sex education that did not include any reference to marriage, even as one option amongst several.”

“I was asked to teach PSHE/RSE avoiding heteronormative language and to celebrate and affirm underage sex and to encourage children to explore their sexuality. I made an official complaint and the school hired a barrister to investigate me. The barrister reported I was unfit to teach PSHE/RSE and would need further training.”

“The students didn’t understand why most churches don’t bless same sex marriage. The students have been taught older people and Christians are bigoted and old-fashioned.”

“I was allowed not to teach elements of RSE due to my beliefs.”

“Christian view of abortion seen as misogynistic even though I pointed out 51 per cent of the US pro-life movement is female.”

“Students are taught to hate conservatives and every role model or hero is left-wing and secular or gay.”

Exposure to explicit, sexualising material poses an acute problem, but an even more fundamental concern is that schools appear to be actively clamping down on teachers who hold traditional views on sex and relationships - even if they express those views moderately and within a balanced framework.

The findings suggest real political bias in RSE teaching and neglect of traditional Christian perspectives on relationships. It confirmed my fears that Christian educators are being marginalised, encountering professional dilemmas when addressing contentious topics and, occasionally, even being removed from RSE teaching due to their faith (a possible violation of the Equality Act 2010).

A teacher’s duty

While educators must impartially present diverse political beliefs under the 1996 Education Act, a significant number of professionals appear to have fostered a progressive environment, reflected by readily accessible RSE materials. ‘Queer theory’ and ‘critical theory’ amplify and redefine sexual practices, openly endorsed by many providers through concepts like ‘intersectionality’ and ‘oppression’. These non-neutral theories follow a narrative of liberation via dismantling oppressive structures.

Contrary to mainstream assumptions, not all teachers hold to these ideologies. But many are afraid to admit it.

While acknowledging the complexity of RSE, I’d emphasise the need for a cautious and considerate approach, urging colleagues to refrain from labels and derogatory language, prioritising grace, compassion and respect for our statutory duty in the classroom.

But it is also essential to consider children’s needs. We cannot prepare our students for meaningful participation in this world without actively questioning the progressive status quo in their lives - and remembering our responsibility to offer, in the words of the Education Act, “a balanced presentation of opposing views”.

Hope in the form of review

The more that individual parents, governors and teachers feel empowered to challenge this widespread agenda, the easier it will be for school leaders, curriculum providers, policymakers and the Department of Education to see that there is a genuine, extensive pushback against the extremes of dominant ideologies.

Christian educators are being marginalised and even removed from RSE teaching

It is my hope that the recently formed RSE review panel will consider evidence from teachers as well as engage openly with schools and parents. But speaking out is hard, and it can be especially challenging for Christian teachers to speak into the never-ending culture wars with courage, grace and compassion.

In our report, the ACT have made crucial recommendations for objective RSE teaching. This includes the suggestion that the government adds specific examples to the statutory guidance, barring the promotion of partisan views and mandating a balanced presentation of opposing views on political matters. We stress the significance of incorporating religious perspectives in the curriculum, especially when other ideological perspectives are presented.

We must not unwittingly enable the creation of centralised approaches to social values, which destroy diversity of thought, freedom of expression and cultural practices. In a worst-case scenario, we may close the door to many faithful and gifted Christian teachers.

And what a heinous disservice to our nation’s children that would be. 

The full results of the ACT survey are available here