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Dealing with the curriculum
“I am going to deal with the RSE document that was put out for our schools. It was confusing. It was put out in the absence of a proper curriculum. People are interpreting it as a curriculum. It is not a curriculum and I think there has been a lot of confusion…”
This statement from Erica Stanford was music to the ears of everyone who has been battling the infiltration of gender identity ideology into our schools.
Stanford (possibly our next Minister of Education) made the statement in an interview on the Platform by Sean Plunket on 16 October in response to a question about gender ideology in schools. (from 15.34 in this recording)
Stanford also referred to the new health curriculum that is currently being written and will be open for consultation next year, saying, “There is a new Health curriculum coming… that will be the curriculum, not this RSE document, so we are going to have to do some tidying up there.” (More about the new curriculum below.)
What exactly is the curriculum?
The New Zealand Curriculum is the framework for teaching and learning in English-medium schools. (There is a different version for kura kaupapa Māori.) The current curriculum was first developed between 2004-7 and there have been multiple updates of it since then, with a major “refresh” currently under way.
The curriculum contains 8 learning areas, each with its own structure and achievement objectives, set out over 8 curriculum levels, roughly equivalent to two years’ of schooling each. It is a framework rather than a detailed plan, meaning that the achievement objectives have been kept deliberately open so that schools can develop programmes that suit their particular children. Schools have considerable flexibility when determining the detail of how they will teach a topic and can draw on a wide range of ideas, resources, and models.
The curriculum is designed and interpreted in a three-stage process: as the national curriculum (by the MOE), the school curriculum (by each school), and the classroom curriculum (lesson plans by individual teachers).
The process of design and review is continuous and cyclic. First, the national curriculum with broad objectives is written and the draft is sent to schools for consultation and feedback before it is finalised. Some schools may test the new topics in a pilot project. Next, guidelines are written to assist schools and teachers with designing their own particular curriculum and lesson plans to meet the objectives in the curriculum. Teacher training in the new guidelines is provided and, finally, school subject specialists or individual teachers gather the resources they will need in the classroom and make a series of lesson plans.
The Ministry of Education routinely publishes guidelines in each learning area, which are usually uncontentious. But not so the Relationships and Sexuality Education Guide 2020, which not only accepts but actively promotes the ideas of gender identity at every opportunity. It is a highly politicised document that is pushing an agenda with no evidential base. (You can read a full critique of the RSE Guide here.)
For example, the Health and Physical Education national curriculum for Level 4 (intermediate age) amongst many other objectives, states that students will: Describe the characteristics of pubertal change and discuss positive adjustment strategies.
This impartial and non-controversial objective has morphed into something quite different in the RSE Guide:
Know about pubertal change (including hormonal changes, menstruation, body development, and the development of gender identities), and about how pubertal change relates to social norms around gender and sexuality; and can make plans to support their own wellbeing and that of others. [RSE Guide: Years 1-8 Pg 33]
Erica Stanford has correctly identified that the RSE Guide is not the curriculum but it does carry a lot of weight with schools as the official advice on how to teach the topics in the curriculum.
Where did the RSE guide come from?
In 2020 the Ministry of Education contracted a group of university academics to update the national curriculum for sexuality education and to write the guidelines for schools. There is detailed information on the rationale for their approach in this Health Education Journal. (1-23)
In summary, the authors of the RSE Guide have accepted without question and without evidence that gender identity ideology is a fact.
They give statistics for the numbers of teens who say they have a gender identity different from their sex without considering whether the rapidly increasing numbers might indicate a social contagion.
They do not question why we suddenly have a completely different presentation of gender identity from ever before. Not only has the cohort of gender dysphoric youth flipped from boys to girls, but there are multiple neo-identities like non-binary, pangender, agender, gender-queer etc.
They recommend policies that they call “inclusive” (such as students using toilets according to their ‘gender identity’) that, in reality, are exclusionary to other cohorts of students.
They quote statistics from some faulty surveys as if they provide robust scientific evidence. (See our FAQs about mental health statistics for more information.)
They are firm in their conviction that pretending humans can change sex is a factual and beneficial stance for schools to take.
There is no evidence that any parent groups were consulted about these significant changes to the Health curriculum.
Where do InsideOUT and Family Planning fit in?
The RSE Guide was published in September 2020 and in April 2022 the MOE issued new resources designed to provide further support for teaching RSE in schools. As part of this update schools were urged to “use resources from trusted organisations like InsideOUT or RainbowYOUTH”.
With 8 learning areas to cover and multiple concurrent changes, it is not surprising that schools and teachers turn to Ministry- approved guidelines or so-called “trusted organisations” for assistance in writing their lesson plans.
InsideOut, Family Planning, and RainbowYouth have been used extensively for in-school teacher “training”.
InsideOut received $100,000 from the MOE to write a series of glossy documents supposedly to support all rainbow students, but actually focussing mainly on students who declare a transgender identity. Our critique of InsideOut’s undue influence is here.
Some schools have already fully implemented the recommendations from the RSE guide, while others are still in the process of consulting with their communities. Parents can be lulled into a false sense of security by seeing only the innocuous wording of the national curriculum and not the detail of the ideas their children will be taught. (Information on what meaningful consultation should look like is here.)
It is paramount that community consultation includes the individual RSE lesson plans and all resources that will be used in the classroom, including any outside groups that are invited to train teachers or speak to students.
Meanwhile, some principals and teachers are waiting for the new Health curriculum to be published in 2024 which will give them (and parents) an opportunity to provide feedback to the Ministry.
What is the new Health curriculum?
Two years ago, the Ministry of Education started a six-year project to Refresh the Curriculum.
Te Mātaitipu, the refreshed curriculum, retains the 8 learning areas but will be progression-focused instead of achievement outcome-focused. Curriculum levels and achievement objectives will be replaced with five phases of learning: Years 1-3, Years 4-6, Years 7-8, Years 9-10 and Years 11-13, and progressions in understanding big ideas, knowing relevant facts, and doing related tasks, including thinking critically.
The new curriculum will be gradually released as the writing for each learning area is completed. So far, Social Sciences, History, English, and Mathematics and Statistics have been released, and it is expected that Te Mātaitipu will be fully functioning for 2027.
Here is the timeframe for development of the new curriculum. (This indicates that writing for the new Health curriculum will be undertaken in 2024 and the draft document will be released early in 2025 - later than has been previously announced.)
Here is information about how to get involved. Again, parent groups do not seem to be included in the planning.
Having Erica Stanford as the next Minister of Education will be welcomed by gender critical groups because she has a head start on understanding the issues with the RSE Guide and has already pledged to “deal” with it.
However, it is vital that parents also keep an eye out for the refreshed Health curriculum in 2024 and do not miss the opportunity to give feedback on the content of relationships and sexuality education in our schools.