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Zahawi: Tell parents about what children are learning at school

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi addresses the Local Government Association Annual Conference, at Harrogate Convention Centre, North Yorkshire (Danny Lawson/PA)
Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi addresses the Local Government Association Annual Conference, at Harrogate Convention Centre, North Yorkshire (Danny Lawson/PA)

Parents should be told about what their children are learning in school, the Education Secretary has said.

Nadhim Zahawi said parents “should know” what their children are being taught, adding that he recognised parents had particular concerns around the teaching of topics such as gender non-conformity.

His comments in the Commons on Monday follow an amendment to the Schools Bill tabled by former Labour education secretary Baroness Morris, which says that “where parents request it, schools must allow parents to view all curriculum materials used in schools, including those provided by external third party charitable and commercial providers”.

The amendment says parents should not be denied access to any curriculum materials, although schools can limit parents’ access to the premises in the interests of commercial confidentiality.

Baroness Morris of Yardley said in June: “Whether we like it or not, we live at a time when there are lots of curriculum areas in which facts are not facts, and what we all assumed was appropriate to pass on to the next generation is now being contested.”

On Monday, MP for Don Valley Nick Fletcher asked Mr Zahawi whether he agreed that if books encouraged “a child to question their biological sex … that parents should be able to see what is being shared with children, whether in lessons or in the school library”.

Mr Zahawi replied: “I just want to be clear here: parents should know what their children are being taught in school.

“There are clear requirements on schools in relation to providing parents with information about a school’s curriculum. We appreciate that parents have particular concerns about gender non-conformity, which is why we are developing very clear guidance, I hope, for the front line for schools to be able to deal with this.”

Last week, The Telegraph reported that Mr Zahawi was supportive of the idea of parental access to curriculum materials, but the Education Secretary had not previously said parents should know what children are being taught on the record.

Mr Zahawi also said the national curriculum states that “pupils should read a wide range of books, poems and plays to appreciate a rich literacy, literary heritage and, of course, develop a love for literature, as I did as a teenager”.

“This includes pre-1914 and contemporary prose poetry and drama, Shakespeare and seminal world literature,” he said.

MP portraits
Bridget Phillipson criticised the Government over clauses in the Schools Bill (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

He has criticised exam board OCR for replacing work by the writers Wilfred Owen and Philip Larkin with works by poets of colour as “cultural vandalism” in its GCSE syllabus.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson criticised the Government for taking out 18 of 69 clauses in the Schools Bill last week, which she said had left the legislation in “tatters”.

She asked whether he had not understood his own legislation or if this was “just the incompetence we’ve all come to expect”.

Last week, clauses relating to centralised control over academies – which had been heavily criticised in the Lords – were removed from the Bill.