CrossTeach banned from Church primary school for being ‘extremist’

A primary school in Kent has cuts its ties with a Christian group after parents complained of religious extremism and claimed children had been distressed by comments about gay marriage and a demonstration of “God’s power” in assemblies.

Dan Turvey, the headteacher of St John’s Church of England primary school in Tunbridge Wells, told parents in a letter that he was ending invitations to the charity CrossTeach to lead school assemblies and take lessons, after what he called a campaign by parents.

One parent said children were being told ‘they would not go to a good place when they died’ if they did not believe in God, according to the Telegraph, and another said her son had been told ‘men can’t marry men’, according to the Guardian.

The parents group said in a statement:

‘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.’

In a letter to parents on Monday Turvey said he was ‘deeply saddened’ to be severing ties but acknowledged children had been ‘upset and disturbed emotionally’.  He wrote:

‘After careful consideration I have decided that we will end our regular commitment to CrossTeach and that they will no longer lead assemblies or take lessons.’

But he added: I do not believe CrossTeach has done anything wrong.’

He said the group would continue to run a voluntary after school club. ‘They do not deserve the tarnishing of their good name and allegations of extremism that have taken place over the last few months,’ he told parents.

One parent who asked not to be named said:

‘I didn’t pull my mine out because overall I think it would do more harm than good to segregate them.

‘But I do know some of the children have been upset by what they have heard. 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.

‘In Tunbridge Wells the vast majority of primary schools are affiliated with the church so it’s not like you have a choice whether you expose your children to this.

‘Personally I want my children to learn about all religions. If you want them to be raised as Christians there are plenty of Sunday schools.’

But Turvey hit back at the parents’ complaints and said: ‘It is my view that the use of social media can be destructive and counterproductive. In this case I believe that the damage caused by the use of this media will take a very long time to repair.’

He added ‘relationships have been soured and trust eroded’, telling parents ‘the past few months have been stressful, tiring and a distraction from our focus’.

Wayne Harris, the national director at CrossTeach, said the group was a charity and worked with schools under constant supervision, observing school policies and national guidleines, where applicable. He added:

“Whilst we note the strong comments made by Mr Daniel Turvey, Headteacher, in support of our workers and activities, Crossteach is very disappointed that, after 16 years of supporting the school, our work will no longer be available to young people at St Johns CE Primary School, Tunbridge Wells.

“Wherever possible we work in partnership with local churches and we reflect their teaching, always aiming to be sensitive to the local context, and recognising that churches vary. We teach mainstream Christianity.

“In 16 years of Christian schools work no teacher has ever raised a concern that something has been said that could be interpreted as in any way ‘hateful’ or ‘extremist’.”

Want to join the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Youth Commission?

The Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Michael Lane, is seeking volunteers aged between 14 and 25 years old to help give young people a voice on the crime and policing issues that matter to them most.

The purpose of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Youth Commission is to make young people part of the solution to tackling crime and improving policing, rather than being seen as part of the problem. It is made up of up to 50 young people aged between 14 and 25.

The Youth Commission currently has four priorities:
• Mental Health
• Hate Crime
• Cyber Safety
• Unhealthy Relationships

Youth Commission members identify the issues that young people are concerned about most and gather opinions on what the specific concerns are and ideas on how to tackle them. They also work to raise awareness and educate young people via campaigns, such as this year’s #GoFISH cyber safety campaign, run workshops, speak at events and take part in a range of other activities.

Members of the Youth Commission gain a variety of skills, meet and work with a range of people, learn about different issues that are relevant to them and their peers and get to be part of some great youth orientated events – this year members have attended festivals, youth conferences and summer activity schemes.

If you are interested is applying (or know someone that maybe interested) then please complete the online application form by 03 November 2017 which can be found here . This is the first part of the two stage application process.

Applicants that reach the second stage will be invited to an assessment evening week commencing 20th November. Applicants with experience of the police and criminal justice systems, as an offender, victim or any other interaction are welcome to apply.

Children’s & youth work links

Links from the world of children’s and youth ministry:

‘Harry Potter’ author J.K. Rowling opens up about books’ Christian imagery: ‘They almost epitomise the whole series,’ she says of the Scripture Harry reads in Godric’s Hollow.

Youth Court Protocol – what’s new?: The MA Youth Court Protocol was originally developed in 2003 as additional guidance for magistrates on the practices and processes of the youth justice system, but it has evolved to be a useful resource for all those who come into contact with the youth court.

Applications for grants to support British Science Week 2018 are now open: There are three grant schemes available to support British Science Week (9-18 March 2018) activities: one for schools, one for community groups (including youth clubs), and one for BSA branches.

Poor white boys are the new oppressed: Trevor Phillips, ex-head of the Commission for Racial Equality, writes a fascinating article on how recent statistics shows “every chance that while the Sikh teenager will one day turn into a highly skilled doctor, the grime-music obsessed African sixth-former will become a pin-striped lawyer, and that mathematics-nut Chinese GCSE student will end up a tech entrepreneur, the best that your average working-class white boy can hope for is a part-time job in an Amazon warehouse.”

These 4 reasons are why youth workers are leaving the church: James Ballantyne blogs on why he believes youth workers are leaving the church – this is essential reading for church leaders.

 

 

Oxford college banned Christian group from freshers’ fair

As the university academic year kicks off, once again, we see a Christian Union having their activities on campus restricted.  Balliol Christian Union (CU) was banned from attending the Freshers’ Fair by the JCR over concerns at the “potential for harm to freshers” and because they wanted the freshers’ fair to be a “secular space”, according to Oxford’s student newspaper Cherwell.

Eventually the CU was told that a single multi-faith stall would be allowed to display leaflets, though no representatives would be allowed to staff it, according to leaked emails. Balliol CU boycotted this option.

The decision has caused anger at Balliol, where a motion was reportedly passed unanimously accusing the JCR committee of “barring the participation of specific faith-based organisations” and describing the step as “a violation of free speech [and] a violation of religious freedom”. The motion prohibited the barring of official religious societies from future freshers’ fairs.

In an email exchange, JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative:

“We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”

“Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

In a Facebook post, JCR president Hubert Au said the decision to have a multi-faith stall rather than a specific CU stall, was reached “in light of both concerns raised by members [of the Welfare sub committee] and by an undergraduate survey conducted last term, which indicated a lack of familiarity as to where non-Christian societies, events and services were located”, the paper reported.  “We didn’t want to monopolise the presence of any individual faith/belief society at the Balliol freshers’ fair.”

The Rev Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said:

“Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental principle that underpins our country and its great institutions and universities.

“Christian Unions represent some of the largest student led organisations in many universities across the country and to exclude them in this way is to misunderstand the nature of debate and dialogue and at odds with the kind of society we are all seeking to promote.”

The Rev Richard Cunningham (Director of UCCF) said:

“We are however concerned that the current desire to provide safe spaces on campus does not infringe on the core liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of association which are surely foundational to the university experience and indeed to basic human flourishing.”

Children’s & youth work links

Links from the world of children’s and youth ministry:

How do we help young people to pray?: Joel Goodlet has written a great blog on the need to stop sending out the invitation to ‘try prayer’ and find a way instead to encourage our young people to devote themselves to prayer.

Hugh Hefner Wrecked My Life. . . Sort Of. . .: Walt Mueller blogs on the cultural impact that Hugh Hefner had.

If you have not read the Nashville Statement, please don’t: Steve Holmes nails it, on how the Nashville Statement is framed to try to make us take sides, and the loudest responses have been similarly framed.

The Annual Bullying Survey 2017: the fifth and largest edition of our yearly benchmark of bullying in the United Kingdom. Ditch the Label, the anti-bullying charity, surveyed over 10,000 young people aged 12-20 in partnership with schools and colleges from across the country.

Regular Energy Drink Use by Young Adults May Hike Risk of Substance Abuse: A new study by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers suggests young adults who regularly consume highly caffeinated energy drinks may be at risk for future substance use.

Six people charged with criminal offences over Hillsborough disaster

Liverpool City Council light up 96 lanterns and illuminate St Georgeís Hall on Lime Street in red along with a banner which names those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough Disaster .(Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Match commander David Duckenfield and Norman Bettison are among six people charged with criminal offences over the Hillsborough disaster.

The Crown Prosecution Service revealed its intentions in a meeting with the victims relatives at 11am this morning.

Last year it was concluded that the 96 fans that lost their lives at Hillsborough in the 1989 stadium disaster had been unlawfully killed.

Following a six month investigation by the Crown Prosecution Service, today six people have been charged for their roles in the Hillsborough disaster, including match commander David Duckenfield and Norman Bettison, who was heavily involved with coordinating the response of the South Yorkshire Police following the dissaster.

Others charged are Graham Henry Mackrell, Sheffield Wednesday’s safety officer; Peter Metcalf, a South Yorkshire Police solicitor; and Donald Denton and Alan Foster, both members of the South Yorkshire Police at the time of the disaster.

 

Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime and CounterTerrorism Division, Sue Hemming, announced the charges in relation to the Hillsborough Stadium disaster.

 

75 Percent of Christians in Iraq Have Fled in the Past 14 Years

During roughly the last decade and a half nearly 75 percent of the Iraqi Christian population fled the country.

The site Faithwire reports that since 2003, the Christian population in Iraq has dropped dramatically.

An Iraqi Christian lawmaker, Josef Sleve, told Anadolu Agency (a news service) that about 2 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003. He said:

The number of Christians living in the country now stands at between 500,000 and 850,000.

This means that over the past 14 years, some 1.5 million Christians have emigrated to other countries.

Experts say that the Christian departure has sped up since the rise of ISIS.

Volunteers gave 7% less of their time to help their communities in the UK

Volunteers gave 7% less of their time to help their communities, at a loss to the UK of more than £1 billion, between 2012 and 2015, the latest figures from the ONS show.

In fact, there has been a general decline in the time that the UK’s unsung heroes and heroines spend volunteering since 2005, according to ONS analysis.

Despite the value of the voluntary sector to the UK, there has been a 15.4% decline in the total number of frequent hours1 volunteered, between 2005 and 2015 – a drop from 2.28 billion hours to 1.93 billion, figures from the Community Life Survey (CLS) show.

Latest figures from 2014 show volunteering represented 2% of the total value of unpaid work, and was worth £23 billion.2

Total frequent hours of formal volunteering, billion hours, 2005 to 2014

Overall, there was a decline in the amount of time put into volunteering. Between 2000 and 2015 it dropped from an average (mean) of 14.5 minutes per volunteer, per day to 13.7 minutes.

This equates to a drop from a weekly average of one hour and 42 minutes to one hour and 36 minutes per volunteer.

Young people and volunteering

The statistics suggest that those in the youngest age group of 16 to 24 have increased the time they devote to volunteering while those in the 25 to 34 age category have decreased their volunteering time.

In 2015 average time and participation in volunteering was higher for those aged between 16 and 24 (17 minutes per day and 51% participation) and was a noticeable rise as compared to those in the same age group in 2000 (nine minutes per day and 40 % participation).

It could be that, as younger people try and secure employment, they undertake voluntary work in order to enhance their CVs, but as they embed themselves in their careers, at an older age, their focus turns to building their careers.

Also, younger people have more free time, with participation rates for students rising the most – by 12 percentage points between 2000 and 2015 – from 46% to 58%.

 

Prince William has a stark warning about the stigma surrounding mental health

Prince William has spoken out about his desire to “normalise” the “great taboo” of mental health in a powerful speech.

He said that until recently, people with anxiety were considered to be “weak,” and those who were struggling to cope were deemed to be “failing.”:

“Successful, strong people don’t suffer like that, do they.  But of course – we all do. It’s just that few of us speak about it”

He said that his interest in mental health began with his work as an Air Ambulance pilot.

“It was suicide, a subject that is so often hidden. The suicide rate among young men in this country is an appalling stain on our society.  Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in this country. Not cancer, not knife crime, not road deaths – suicide.”

The prince said if any one of the aforementioned issues caused so many deaths, there would be a “national outcry.”

“But there has only ever been silence. And this has to stop. This silence is killing good people,” the prince said.

The prince said that in his work as in Search and Rescue and as an Air Ambulance pilot, he has been encouraged — along with his colleagues — to admit when they feel “overwhelmed or unable to cope”.

“This should be the norm,” he said.

The UK prison system is in melt down

The UK prison system is in melt down.  Currently we have riots in prisons, high staff turnover due to assaults, and high suicide rates.

Riots in prison

Violence in prison seems to be on the increase.  Assaults behind bars increased by more than 34% to 23,775 – about 65 per day – in the 12 months to the end of June 2016.  The MoJ figures show an increasingly volatile situation in women’s prisons, with the number of assaults rising by 25% in a year.

The Ministry of Justice has explicitly acknowledged that staff cuts are a factor in the rising tide of violence in prisons in England and Wales.  The MoJ commentary on the prison safety figures states:

“The rise in assaults since 2012 has coincided with major changes to the regime, operating arrangements and culture in public sector prisons.  For example, restructuring of the prison estate, including staff reductions, which have reduced overall running costs, and an increase in gang culture and illicit psychoactive drugs in prisons.”

In recent months we’ve seen a murder in Pentonville prison, riots in Lewes, Bedford, Birmingham and  Swaleside and the Prison Officers’ Association stating that Hull prison is ‘on [the] brink of riot’ after inmates arrive from Birmingham.

High staff turnover

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said that the National Offender Management Service, which oversees the country’s prisons, has classed 12 jails as “red sites”, meaning they do not have enough staff to operate a standard regime. A similar number are classed as “amber sites”, indicating they are also suffering acute staffing issues. The POA has estimated around 35% of the country’s prisons were experiencing some form of staffing problem.

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that in the past year the number of full-time prison officers has dropped by almost 600.

High suicide rates

The Howard League for Penal Reform said it had been notified of the deaths by suicide of 102 people up until 18 November – the equivalent of one every three days and breaking the record for frequency of suicides.

According to Frances Cook, the director of the Howard League:

“With five weeks remaining until the end of the year, it is already the highest death toll in a calendar year since recording practices began in 1978. The previous high was in 2004 when 96 deaths by suicide were recorded.”

Crook said:

“The number of people dying by suicide in prison has reached epidemic proportions. No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life and yet, every three days, a family is told that a loved one has died behind bars.

“By taking bold but sensible action to reduce the number of people in prison, we can save lives and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Prison staff struggle to recognise mental health risk factors as shown in the case of Josh Collinson, aged 18, who was found hanged at Swinfen Hall young offender institution in Staffordshire on 3 September last year.  He had been transferred the previous day from Parc prison, in south Wales, where he had self-harmed on six occasions and been placed on a list of at-risk prisoners.

So what can be done?

One of the key issues is to lower the jail population.  As Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative former home secretary and justice secretary, Jacqui Smith, the Labour former home secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem former deputy prime minister, have warned that the prison crisis will do “untold damage to wider society” if it is not addressed.  The prison population should be cut from its current level, around 85,000, to what it was in the 1980s, around 45,000, they say in a letter to the Times:

“To restore order, security, and purpose to our jails, ministers should now make it their policy to reduce prison numbers. We want to see the prison population returned to the levels it was under Margaret Thatcher, herself no ‘soft touch’,”

Secondly is to review sentencing policy and to explore tougher alternatives to prison, possibly involving “visible” work punishments in the community, as suggested by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice:

“If you are sending someone to prison for a very short time, the ability of the prison to cope with that person is limited in the current circumstances. It’s very important that you have real alternatives to prison. It’s important you have tough community sentences available … and this is something at which we really need to look.

“Should you have some really tough kind of work for [offenders] to do? Should you make the punishment visible? What’s essential is that you have a tough alternative to prison … These are things on which it would be good to have a proper open debate.”

Thirdly, young offenders up to the age of 25 should be kept out of adult prisons because of “irrefutable evidence” that the typical adult male brain is not fully formed until at least the mid-20s, MPs have said.

The House of Commons justice select committee says young adults, who make up 10% of the adult prison population but account for 30-40% of police time, should be treated differently by the criminal justice system and be held in young offender institutions with 18- to 20-year-olds.  The MPs say that the most recent evidence shows that young people are reaching adult maturity five to seven years later than they did a few decades ago, which is affecting the age at which most typically grow out of crime.

 

 

Tens of thousands of UK teenagers neglected at home, report says

Survey of year 10 pupils suggests one in seven experience some form of neglect, risking their physical and emotional health.

teenage-boys

A survey commissioned by the Children’s Society found that one in seven 14- and 15-year-olds had experienced at least one form of neglectful parenting, the equivalent of three to four students in every year 10 classroom.

Emotional and supervisory neglect were the joint most common forms reported by year 10 pupils and the former was associated with teenagers being more likely to engage in risky behaviour.

Those who said they had experienced emotional neglect were more than twice as likely than their peers to have got drunk recently, nearly three times as likely to have smoked and more than twice as likely to have skipped lessons.

Neglected teenagers were also significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, pessimistic about their futures and lacking confidence in their abilities. Children who reported frequent support from parents were more likely to have higher levels of wellbeing. Young people who were materially deprived were more likely to be neglected than their peers.

The Children’s Society said that the problems stem partly from an incorrect perception that teenagers needed less care and support than younger children. It wanted to see better support and advice for parents bringing up adolescents.

The Children’s Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said:

“No child should be left feeling that no one cares about them. Teenagers are often seen as more resilient than younger children. But of course they still need care from their parents to meet their needs, support their education and keep them safe.

“Our research makes clear the central role of parental care and emotional support to the wellbeing of young people. With little dedicated advice readily available for parents of teenagers, we need to provide more support to parents bringing up teenagers, not to blame them. The government has a massive role to play in making sure the needs of teenagers, and their parents, are never forgotten. Society must not give up on teens.”

Recommendations in the report, published on Tuesday, include parenting classes for families with adolescent children, training on understanding adolescent neglect for frontline education, health and youth justice workers and more work to enable young people to recognise neglectful situations and know what help is available.

The University of York polled a representative sample of about 2,000 young people aged 12 to 15 in 72 schools for the report, asking them about their experiences of being cared for by their parents.