A group of parents who withdrew their children from school assemblies, claiming concern over “extremist” content, have been accused of trying to “drive mainstream Christian teaching” out of a Church of England (CoE) primary school.
Dan Turvey, headmaster of St. John’s in Tunbridge Wells, announced that CrossTeach workers would no longer lead assemblies or lessons after some parents complained that teaching about sin had upset children at the religious primary school.
In a letter to parents, he noted that over a period of 15 years of involvement the school had never had any issues with CrossTeach, but in the “best interests of all concerned” ordered staff from the charity to stay away.
“A group of about 25 parents wrote a letter of complaint expressing concerns that the school were supporting extremist Christian teaching in assemblies held by CrossTeach and individuals from St John’s Church,” he wrote.
“I do not believe CrossTeach has done anything wrong,” the headteacher told pupils’ families, adding that the charity “do not deserve the tarnishing of their good name”, nor “allegations of extremism”, and will continue to run voluntary after-school activities.
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On Wednesday, Kent Live reported that local vicar Reverend Giles Walter fingered protesting parents as the“extremists” in the argument, and not CrossTeach or St. John’s Church.
In a statement released to the newspaper, he said: “The behaviour of this small group of parents has hurled a hand grenade into a previously happy and harmonious environment.
“They seem determined to drive mainstream Christian teaching out of our church school: and it is they and not ourselves who should be charged with extremism and non-inclusiveness.”
The minister, who has led assemblies at St. John’s for 24 years, also pointed out that not once previously had he been asked to “withdraw, or apologise for” anything he had taught or spoken about at the school.
In his letter, Turvey lamented that the “online campaign” by complaining parents had damaged the reputation of the school, church, and CrossTeach in a “significant” way.
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According to The Telegraph, one parent said she would prefer her children “learn about all religions”, telling the newspaper: “If you want them to be raised as Christians there are plenty of Sunday schools.
“No one minds Nativity plays and Bible stories but considering most of the parents at the school aren’t practising Christians I think the feeling is that it’s all too much.”
The Guardian reported another parent claiming her son was told last week at the school that “men can’t marry men”.
The statement prepared by parents opposed to CrossTeach said: “We recognise and respect the school’s Christian values but think there is a brand of Christianity that is abusing that respect.
“The basis of [our] complaint relates purely to concerns over the welfare and safeguarding of children who we believe are being exposed to potentially damaging ideology.”