Here is the comment I sent to the Government consultation on out-of-school education settings. Feel free to re-use, modify, distribute as you like.
I am writing to express my opposition to the government’s plans to regulate the content of out-of-school education.
I volunteer on an annual residential Christian holiday for young people which includes teaching on Christianity and the Bible. I am concerned that the work of this holiday would be regulated under these proposals. However, my concern is much wider than simply this and similar work.
I want to defend people I disagree with, as well as those with whom I agree.
I do not believe it is beneficial to society for governments to control the content of education provided outside of the state education system. In fact, I think it is a dangerous path to take, since while we may trust our current government and inspection regime, we have no reason to suppose it will always be tolerant and respectful of diverse views.
The use of terms such as “British values”, “emotional harm” and “tolerance” in the proposals is concerning since these are open to widely-varying interpretations. In recent history, it could certainly have been considered “un-British” to lobby for the legalisation of homosexuality or the enfranchisement of women, or to support a communist political party.
Personally, I interpret “British values” to mean being tolerant of views very different from my own, and keeping state interference in individual decisions to a minimum. In that context, I believe these proposals are in conflict with British values, and my own values.
I believe that the best way to counteract violent religious extremism is to practice the tolerance that we preach: to demonstrate in words and actions that we respect individual freedom of speech and action. Where children are being taught values with which we disagree, we should argue in public against those values, not ban them from being taught.