10th April 2021, London
London – A public meeting attended by more than 1,500 people yesterday heard that advice provided to schools on Relationship and Sex Education has “no legal standing and should not be considered as guidance”. The legal opinion prepared by Queens Counsel was obtained by a coalition of organisations from Tower Hamlets due to concerns regarding the Borough’s guidance to schools.
Representatives of the coalition presented this information to the meeting. In addition, Shaun Esprit a Criminal and Family Barrister from Church Court Chambers, and Samantha Knights QC of Matrix Chambers were speakers at the public meeting.
The question about schools failing to fulfilling their legal obligation to properly consult parents was raised. Samantha Knights QC stated that parents should, “Complain to the school and to the governors, and if the school doesn’t deal with the complaint properly then the next line (of complaint) would be to the local authority”. She went on to further state, “Ultimately if the school ignores it (your complaint) and the local authority refuses to accept that there is anything wrong with the consultation, you will be able to Judicially Review (the school)”.
Nur Choudhury, Consultant for Tower Hamlets Parents Association (THPA) said:
“As a coalition, we have held several meetings with Mayor John Biggs, Kate Smith and Cllr Danny Hassell (now replaced by Cllr Asma Begum) who are the driving forces behind the Local Authority’s RSE policy. At the meetings, the Mayor agreed with our sentiments and even stated that the naming of sexual body parts does not help safeguarding. The Mayor has failed to follow up on our meetings and the question that lingers in our mind is if this issue has been thrown into the long grass? The aforementioned Council officers and the Mayor were invited to attend this public meeting alongside local MP’s Rushanara Ali and Apsana Begum, but none attended. It seems they may have shied away from public scrutiny and accountability on this matter. It is important that the Borough clarifies its advice to reflect Central Government guidance”
A number of parents have raised real concerns that they are being and/or will be labelled for raising concerns about RSE, with the threat of being referred to Prevent. This fear is stifling meaningful consultation and leaving parents feeling hopeless. A Council Officer who worked with Kate Smith said to THPA on condition of anonymity:
“I was in Kate Smith’s RSE/Healthy Schools Team and due to my strong objections and concerns, I was forcibly re-deployed to another team. Many Muslim teachers and school staff are too scared to object or speak out due to the fear of losing their job or being labelled as a ‘radical or islamist’!”
The public meeting was attended by people of different faiths and no faith. The coalition received many messages of support such as the following:
“I have just attended your RSE Meeting. The lady at the end was asked the question about the views of other communities. I just wanted to say that I am Christian and completely agree with the views raised tonight by yourselves. Thank you very much to everyone who gave their time tonight. I found the meeting extremely useful.”
Consultant for THPA
NOTES FOR EDITORS
 The coalition comprises Tower Hamlets Parents Association (THPA), The East London Mosque, Ashaadibi Centre and Darul Ummah
 Tower Hamlets Parents Association represents over 2,000 parents from 60 schools across Tower Hamlets. The Association was formed by local parents in January 2020 when parents discovered their views were being disregarded and that consultation meetings by the Council were just tick-box exercises to rubber-stamp an RSE policy that had already been created. THPA was launched as a response to promote meaningful and genuine dialogue between the Local Authority, Schools and parents.
 Tower Hamlets Borough has 70 primary schools and 17 secondary schools. Its ethnic minorities make up 55% of the population. Across primary schools upto 85% of children are from ethnic minorities, with 63% proportion being Bangladeshi Muslim. https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/lgnl/community_and_living/borough_statistics/Borough_profile.aspx