Parent Power’s RSE survey reveals the extent to which parents are undermined by the system.
Parent Power recently invited UK parents to complete a survey concerning their experience of Relationship and Sexual Education in their children’s schools. Thank you to all those who made submissions. We received 118 responses from parents with children who attended a variety of educational institutions: 52% of these parents have children in primary schools and 39% have children in secondary schools. The results were collected from parents of children at both secular and faith schools, and 16% of these parents had a least one child in a fee-paying school.
The responses showed that an alarming 66% of parents said they were ‘very unhappy’ with what their children were being taught in RSE lessons, including where RSE topics were being taught in other parts of the curriculum. 71% believed that their children were being taught information that was ‘not at all age appropriate’.
When we asked parents whether they had been informed of their ‘legal right to request withdrawal’ of their child from sex education, 68% said they were ‘not aware of this choice’. This was, however, not applicable for parents who live in Wales, where ‘Relationships & Sexuality Education’ has been made compulsory in its entirety, and parents are unable to request their children to be withdraw from any of these classes.
We then asked the parents questions concerning the content of their schools’ RSE programmes: almost half of respondents (48%) said that their children’s schools ‘hadn’t undertaken a consultation’ with parents about their RSE teaching; a further 15% said they ‘didn’t know’ whether a consultation had been undertaken, which suggests even where consultations are taking place, schools are not communicating the relevant information to parents clearly enough. Also, only 16% of parents who completed our survey said they were ‘allowed full access to the resources’ that would be taught to their children; worryingly 50% of parents said they were ‘not allowed to view material at all’.
A few parents, who knew of their right to withdraw, told us that their requests for withdrawal were ‘completely ignored’; one said, ‘I asked for my child in year 9 to be withdrawn from specific lessons but it didn’t happen’. Another, with a child at nursery, told us that ‘they still won’t tell us what they will teach my 3-year-old at all. They ignored my letter requesting opt out.’
Many other parents said that, although they had contacted schools requesting information on their RSE programmes, schools had not given them any response; one parent stated, ‘our Head Teacher couldn’t or wouldn’t answer any questions on RSE and hid from me when he saw me’.
55% of parents felt their views expressed in the RSE consultation ‘had no influence at all’ on the outcome and what went on to be taught to their children; and 58% of parents felt their children’s school ‘provided inadequate or no information’ about their RSE teaching.
One parent explained, ‘I attended a meeting to discuss RSE – there were very few parents in attendance. I had already accessed online the resources they were using – Jigsaw. I expressed my opposition very clearly about the resources used, which concentrated on LGBT issues and mindfulness. I am still very annoyed at the lack of attendance of parents and also how my views were dismissed’.
Another parent said, ‘The Headteacher at our primary school is refusing to consult parents over its RSE policy, instead the headteacher has re-written it. He has also said at a governor meeting that, even if he did consult parents, then he will still go ahead with his policy, as it’s the right thing to do. He wants to embed LGBTQ into the whole curriculum, including transgender. I am currently seeking legal advice’.
Early analysis of the results of our Parent Power survey demonstrates the extent to which parents feel disempowered by the system, and even the process of ‘consultation’ which is supposed to take the opinions of parents into account. The fact that parents no longer have an automatic right of withdrawal for their children has inevitably resulted in their views having little real influence, with many schools seeming to believe they have free reign to teach what they want, or what they believe is required by the Government. We will share further insights with you from our survey in a following article.