The new panellists will consider evidence provided by Ofsted and will be looking into whether RSHE in England is being taught in a ‘factual’ and ‘age-appropriate way.’ This is the first review of RSHE since it came into statutory force in 2020 and, from this review, new age-rated boundaries will be determined. Work on the review is to start immediately and will be completed by September 2023.
The panel members will include Dame Lesley Regan, Ob-Gyn professor at Imperial College and Women’s Health Ambassador; Sir Hamid Patel, Chief Executive of Star Academics; Helena Brothwell, Regional Director of School Improvement for David Ross Academy Trust; Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England; and Alasdair Henderson, a barrister who specialises in public law, human rights, employment law and equality law, and is known for leading the Equality and Human Rights Commission Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party in 2020.
Chief Executive of Star Academies, Sir Hamid Patel, offered his thoughts on the expectations the panel are hoping to fulfil, and said that, “The panel will offer insight on how schools can deliver a high quality RSHE curriculum for all our young people in a way that is age-appropriate, objective and wisely informed by the needs and views of children, parents and families from all backgrounds, across the country. The review is a welcome opportunity to provide clarity for teachers on expectations, alongside transparency and reassurance for parents.”
This may, at first, appear to be the result that parents have been hoping for; however, this means that official age determinates will be set for RSHE content according to what the Government, rather than necessarily parents, deem appropriate. Teachers may also be forced to teach material they deem to be age-inappropriate. There will also be new topics introduced into the Statutory Guidance, which are considered by the Government as priority subjects for schools to address. These will include new or additional content on mental health, suicide prevention, vaping and tackling violence against women and girls. There is often discussion between parents on the age that subjects such as suicide should be introduced; many feel that premature introduction of these topics could impact a child’s innocence and lead to them being negatively influenced.
Alasdair Henderson’s publicly expressed opinions have on occasions conflicted with the secular liberal agenda, and he caused controversy in 2020 when he said the term ‘homophobe’ was a ‘highly ideological propaganda term’. Let us hope this is indicative of Henderson’s approach to his new role. There is a lot of concern regarding the review, especially the notion of the Government setting boundaries of ‘age-appropriateness’, as well as over possible ideological bias from members of the panel. It has been announced that, following input from the panel and ‘wider stakeholders’, there will be a consultation on the panel’s proposals in the Autumn. Let us hope in the consultation process that the voice of parents will be heard and this time the Government will actually take notice.
Parent Power is clear that the most important change that should be made is a reinstatement of the parents’ right of withdrawal. Only that will provide parents with the true influence that is their right. We will update our Parent Power readers on further developments as we have more information.
Parent Power Team