Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teacher’s Code Threatens Freedom of Religion: General Teaching Council for England Survey on the draft Code of Conduct and Practice

The General Teaching Council for England published their new draft Code of Conduct and Practice for teachers in England in November 2008. Teachers are required to sign a clause saying that they will adhere to the Code before they can be registered and the Code is used as a standard by which teachers are judged by the GTC or by Employment Tribunals, as well as by schools and Local Education Authorities.


It is of concern that the Code requires teachers to “promote equality and diversity in all their professional relationships” in Principle 4. This implies that teachers will be required to promote other religions and/or sexual practices outside marriage and it could lead to censorship. We believe that teachers should be required to respect pupils, parents and colleagues from other backgrounds, but should not be required to promote other religions and sexual orientations such as homosexuality that are contrary to their beliefs. The ordinary meanings of the words “equality” and “diversity” should not cause a problem, but recent cases have shown how these terms have been interpreted to require promotion of values contrary to Christian beliefs. For example, a nurse, Caroline Petrie, was suspended for offering to pray for a patient and a registrar, Lillian Ladele, was dismissed for refusing to carry out civil partnership ceremonies. It is important to respond to this survey because as a result of this draft Code, Christian teachers could face disciplinary action or even dismissal for practising their faith.


Please take a few minutes to defend the freedoms of Christian teachers by responding to the survey.



Responding to the Survey

Anyone can respond to the General Teaching Council for England’s survey on their draft Code of Conduct for teachers. Before you respond, you need to read the draft Code of Conduct and practice, which can be accessed here: http://www.opm.co.uk/gtc/GTCE_draft_code.pdf.

Replies are needed by Friday 27th February 2009.


The questionnaire is anonymous. Answers can be changed by going backwards and forwards between questions and only once the ‘submit’ button is clicked will the entire survey be sent. The website estimates that users should be able to complete the survey in 15 minutes.


The survey’s website advises you that if you experience technical difficulties completing the survey you can contact Jo Sloman on 020 7239 7823 and that if you wish to talk to someone about the survey you can contact Kate Willcocks at OPM by e-mail: kwillcocks@opm.co.uk or by phone: 020 7239 0875.



Contents of the Survey

Section A provides different questions depending on your interest in the survey. You will therefore be asked whether you are a teacher, a parent, a governor, a pupil and so on. You will also be asked what your length of service is, or the age of your children as appropriate. All participants are required to state whether they are responding from within England and from which region.


Section B asks questions about the Code itself and offers the opportunity for general comments regarding the introduction to the Code (box B2); the content of the Code (box B5) and the language or tone of the code (box B7).


Section C gives you an opportunity to make general comments.



You can see our responses to the questions that ask for comments if you click on this link http://www.ccfon.org/docs/CCFON_Response_to_the_GTCE_Survey.pdf . Please answer the questions as you see fit, including a selection of our points if you wish, but it is best if you try and put them in your own words. You may forward this e-mail to others who may wish to respond to the survey, but please do not post it on any website. You will need to fill in the survey at the following link: http://www.opmsurveys.co.uk/gtcsurvey.htm.


We suggest that you use some of the following points in your answers:


  • All teachers need to be registered, so this means that Christian teachers, who have to agree to abide by the Code, will be signing up for an equality and diversity agenda that is contrary to their core beliefs.


  • A teacher’s job is to teach, it is not to be an equality and diversity officer.


  • The Government’s own Sex and Relationship Education Guidance says that it is “inappropriate teaching” to promote a sexual orientation, it is therefore doubly inappropriate to be disciplined for not doing so.


  • The new draft Code should take the approach of the current Code in setting down minimum standards only.


  • Much of what is in the new draft Code (when compared to the current Code) should be contained in non-disciplinary guidance. Teachers should not be disciplined for acting on their values, but only when they bring the profession into disrepute, such as by acquiring a criminal conviction or by demeaning a pupil.


  • The code should not cover matters of promoting higher professional standards, which should be in a separate advisory non-disciplinary guide.


  • The code on equality and diversity could be used to victimise Christian teachers, who do not wish to promote a sexual orientation and other religions contrary to their beliefs.


  • The cases of the nurse Caroline Petrie and of Jennie Cain, a primary school receptionist who is being investigated by her school after her 5 year-old daughter spoke to friends about Jesus, show how the equality and diversity agenda can be used to victimise Christians.


  • All current references to equality and diversity should be removed from the draft Code and replaced by the wording on these issues in the current Code to show that teachers’ duties amount to treating those from diverse backgrounds with respect by refraining from demeaning them—the correct scope for disciplinary matters.


  • The equality and diversity promotion aspects of the code could be used gradually to remove from the teaching profession Christian teachers and prospective Christian teachers, because they will be unable, in good conscience, to comply with its requirements. The Christian ethos motivates many of the profession’s most valued, loving, caring teachers. In short there is a danger that the profession will lose many talented and experienced teachers who are currently an asset to the profession.


  • Teachers should not be required to promote what may amount to a politically-correct view that is contrary to their consciences and beliefs. “Diversity” means respecting the diversity of staff as well as that of pupils and/or parents.


  • The Code is used for the registration of all teachers and their discipline so it is important to ensure that it is restricted to minimum standards only.


  • Christian teachers and prospective Christian teachers would have great difficulty in agreeing to Principle 4 that requires the promotion of equality and diversity; such issues should not be included.



  • The code could result in those who wish to attack both Christian teachers and Christianity in schools having the ammunition to do so using terms such as “equality”, “diversity” and “inclusion” as a pretext. These terms are causing the marginalisation of Christianity.


  • The effect of this code could be gradually to remove Christian teachers and those of other faiths from the teaching profession.


  • There is a difference between teaching about other faiths and promoting them.


  • The new draft Code should be reformulated along the lines of the current Code, which serves its purpose as a disciplinary code well, because it restricts itself to disciplinary matters. Much of the material in the draft Code should be in a separate code of advisory, non-disciplinary status, covering professional standards. For example, teachers showing the core values of “excellence and continual development” and “commitment and empathy” are professional standards to strive to achieve, but failure to attain them should not warrant disciplinary measures.




Andrea Minichiello Williams

Christian Concern for our Nation

http://www.ccfon.org

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