Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Parents are standing up for their rights as primary educators

The Vaughan Parents' Action Group (VPAG) has kindly sent me a letter which it has just sent to parish priests in London (full letter published with permission). The letter seeks to set the record straight regarding the group's dispute with the Catholic archdiocese of Westminster. My interest as SPUC director in highlighting this matter is to help uphold the rights of parents (Catholic or non-Catholic) to protect their children against prevailing ideas in sex education, ideas which are promoted by the Catholic Education Service (CES) and Paul Barber, director of the Westminster Diocese Education Service.

The letter, among other things, says:
"Many parents feel that there are a number of ways in which both the Catholic Education Service and the Westminster Diocesan Education Service are failing to listen to the views of parents who, in their role as “primary educators” of their children, have both the right and the responsibility to choose the sort of education they feel is best suited to their child.

In particular, we are concerned about the following:
• The actions of the Catholic Education Service and The Westminster Diocese Education Service suggest a greater desire to promote a political ideology rather than Catholic faith and teaching. There have been feelings of disquiet about Catholic education for some time, but this disquiet began to grow last year when the CES appeared to collude with the last Government over the Sex and Relationships Education provisions of the Children, Schools and Families Bill.
• The Vaughan is well known for its strong and authentic Catholic ethos. The Adjudicator’s comment suggests that the actions of the Diocese are an attempt to dilute the ethos of the Vaughan.
Cardinal Grocholewski’s 2009 letter to Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences points out that: 'Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools'
• Parents want to know why Paul Barber [the Diocesan Education Director] has been appointed to the Governing Body of the Vaughan school ... We would be interested to know what Mr Barber’s definition of a highly successful Catholic school is.
• The Diocese has chosen not to appoint current parents as Foundation Governors at the Vaughan ... We wonder why the Diocese was prepared to go to court rather than find two current parents of its choice.
Parents have been marginalised and ignored. We are practising, faithful, supportive Catholics and we have been portrayed as self-interested 'super Catholics' by the Church we have tried to support and defend. We have been left feeling confused and betrayed. It is time some questions were asked about the motivation and intentions of the WDES and the CES. The future of Catholic education is at stake."
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