Schools have choice on scripted lesson plans, says department

Christian anti-CDE protesters outside a meeting between the DBE and religious leaders in Pretoria last Thursday.

One of the issues regarding the Department of Basic Education’s controversial new scripted lesson plans (SLPs) for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) in schools has been clarified at last — their use by schools is not compulsory.

Writing about this issue in a Freedom of Religion SA blog post, FOR SA legal advisor Daniela Ellerbeck says this was confirmed at a meeting between the department and school governing body federations and teacher unions on Friday January 24.

The Department’s latest position is that while the curriculum will remain the same, public schools remain free to choose the material they want to use to achieve the stated outcomes.

What still remains unanswered, is whether or not parents who are nevertheless unwiling for their children to be taught certain components of CSE, will be able to remove their children from these classes.

SLPs open for comment
In another development at last Friday’s meeting, the department’s deputy director-general, Dr Granville Whittle, agreed to open the SLPs  for comment until Friday February 28.

“And we certainly encourage parents, teachers and other interested persons to do so,” says Ellerbeck.

The SLPs are available online here and input on their content can be sent to Dr Whittle at whittle.g@dbe.gov.za and buys.q@dbe.gov.za.

In her FOR SA blog post, Ellerbeck explains that the department’s clarified position on the use of SLPs is a consequence of section 6A of the Schools Act which gives the minister power to determine CAPS curriculum outcomes but not the power to dictate the sources teachers / schools must use to achieve those outcomes. The department therfore cannot make the SLPs mandatory.

The DBE’s clarified position on SLPs contrasts with comments by Granville White at a meeting with religious leaders last Thursday, when he said the department intends to require use of the SLPs at all schools from Grade R to Grade 12 and that there will be no opting-out for concerned parents.