Church of England secondary school assigns pre-teens pornographic homework

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Archbishop Sentamu touring the Archbishop Sentamu Academy

The principal of a Church of England secondary school in Hull, the Archbishop Sentamu Academy, has apologized to the parents of its students after pupils in a Personal, Social and Health education class were assigned pornography for homework.

The students, aged 11 to 14, were asked by their teachers to “define” pornography, soft pornography, hardcore pornography and transsexual pornography, female genital mutilation, wet dreams, trafficking, male circumcision, breast ironing and other deviant sexual practices as a homework assignment. Additional questions addressed the topics of alcohol, narcotics and smoking.

The Hull Daily Mail quoted one parent identified as “Mrs. Taylor” who complained of the impropriety of the church school’s actions. “My daughter is still very much a child,” she said. “We’ve still got magic elves, her bedroom is done in My Little Pony. She is very innocent and naïve.”

She thought the school would offer a religious ethos to its pupils. “[H]ow can they say they are a religious school but condone writing something like this in the book? I can’t get my head around it. …”

School principal Chay Bell said he was “genuinely sorry” if “parents or students have unnecessarily researched any of these phases and for any offence caused.”

He said she would ensure that parents would be informed of any “future materials” that had “any potentially sensitive content” would be disclosed before their being assigned to students, and he would make sure “all materials are fully age-appropriate.”

However, the school principal said the PSHE materials were produced “in line with government guidance” and also “cover the Equality Act of 2010.” He further stated the preteens “were not directed” to under take independent research into pornography and deviant sexual behavior, as the “answers to the questions students posed were contained in the teacher-produced materials we shared.”

The mission statement of the Sentamu Academy states: “Through Christian principles, we aim to offer an education that transforms lives and communities. Everyone in our academy community deserves to be cared for unconditionally and valued equally as a unique creation, made in the image of God.”

The statement said the school was “committed to valuing”:

The work and person of Jesus Christ, his example and his teaching;

The equality of every young person in our academy, as being created in the image of God;

Good relationships, based on mutual respect, trust, forgiveness and a fresh start every day;

The importance of accepting the responsibility to make good choices, irrespective of the circumstances we may face;

The contribution made by families, community groups and others to the well-being, education and nurture of our students and;

The pursuit of excellence in every area of our lives, so that we can all reach our full potential.”

The vicar of St John Newlands Church of England parish in Hull, the Rev. Melvin Tinker, told Anglican Ink:

“Whilst the teachers and Principal of Sentamu Academy saw no difficulty in assigning children as young as 11 years old with the task of exploring issues of pornography, alert parents armed with good common sense did. There was no question in their minds of how totally inappropriate this ‘educational’ material is for school children of any age.

“It was naïve in the extreme to think that children wouldn’t use the internet to look up these terms. The school’s gross carelessness has risked exposing pupils in their care to hardcore pornography. It may have apologised but frankly that was the very least it could do for this grossly irresponsible act.

“The Principal has promised to ensure all materials are fully age appropriate. What does that mean? When is ‘hardcore pornography’ an age-appropriate topic for school-children at all? The answer, of course, is that it is not.

“The question in the minds of most people is: Why were children being taught this material in the first place? There is simply no need for it (and much to be said against it). The law certainly doesn’t require it and it is disingenuous of the Principal to intimate that it was.

“Statutory guidance requires parents to be consulted about relationships and sex education. In this case, it seems parents were left completely in the dark which is a serious dereliction of duty on the part of the Academy.

“However, the guidance recommends that by the end of secondary school, students are taught the impact of viewing harmful content and that pornography’s distorted picture of sexual behaviours is highly damaging. What it doesn’t do is encourage schools to start teaching it to their students. The Academy’s own ‘Sex and Relationships’ policy states, ‘Children/Young people should be made aware of the way in which advertising and the media and pornography influences their views about sexuality.’ Why, then, were these young children being put at risk of having their own views about sexuality influenced by such pornography?

“The Academy needs to stop listening to the self-appointed ‘experts’ at the Sex Education Forum and start paying a lot more attention to local parents, to the wellbeing of the children and to its legal duties.”