Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act

Part of Petition - Closure of Heywood Crown Post Office – in the House of Commons at 4:05 pm on 25th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham 4:05 pm, 25th June 2019

I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty. I rise to put one point to the Minister.

I welcome the fact that we are having this debate and I share my hon. Friend’s dismay at the scenes in Birmingham, but it is right that we talk about this issue and discuss the concerns that have been raised. My hon. Friend Mr Godsiff is right to remind us that religion or belief is among the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010.

In the debate on the regulations on 20 March, I raised concerns that were being voiced, particularly by representatives of the Orthodox Jewish community. I chair the all-party group on faith and society. After the debate, I asked the Minister whether he would ensure that officials from his Department and from Ofsted attended a meeting to discuss the implementation of the regulations with representatives of a wide range of faith groups. I am very grateful to him for arranging that: the representatives came and the meeting took place.

One idea that emerged from the meeting, mentioned in a letter I copied to him, is a requirement to subject local plans for implementing the regulations in each area to consultation with the local standing advisory committee on religious education—the SACRE. I recognise that in some areas there may well be a question about the capacity of the committees to undertake such a consultation. In other areas, however, they are certainly well up for doing it. The SACRE is in most areas, I think, quite a wide and representative body that is currently focused purely on religious education. The suggestion that emerged was that its remit might be extended to take in local plans for implementing the relationships and sex education statutory instrument. I wonder whether the Minister will be able today, or separately, to respond to that specific idea, which came out of the meeting he very helpfully supported after that debate in the House.