Launch of RSE report challenging the Government
On Tuesday, 11th September, the Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group, chaired by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, and jointly Convened by Revd Lynda Rose, CEO of VfJUK, and Robert Harris, launched its Report on Relationships and Sex Education: The Way Forward. The Report is in response to the public consultation on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), due to close on November 7.
Whatever the public response, the Government has insisted the proposals will be implemented between September 2019 and 2020, making Relationships Education mandatory in all Primary schools, including free and maintained schools, and Academies, and Sex and Relationships Education mandatory for all Secondary schools. However, Relationships and Sex Education: The Way Forward argues that the underlying rationale is fundamentally flawed, and will not help what everyone agrees is a major crisis in child welfare.
Despite our best efforts the UK still has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe – and that’s even with the reported recent 9.6% drop in conceptions for girls aged 15 to 17, hailed as such a success by family planning groups. At the same time we have sky-rocketing rates of teenage STIs, classified by doctors as at epidemic level, while children as young as five are reportedly accessing pornography, and sexting and online bullying is at a record high. And despite justifiable concern over the rise in paedophile and sex grooming, figures for child sexual abuse show that one third of attacks are actually committed by other children.
The traditionally favoured remedy has been to increase sex and relationships teaching – the line the Government is now taking. As said, under the new proposals, relationships education will be mandatory for all primary schools, and relationships and sex education will be mandatory for children aged 11-18. Up until now parents have had the right to withdraw children from sex education classes, but Damian Hinds has now announced that this right is incompatible with English case law and the European Convention on Human Rights, so he is proposing to limit this to the right to request withdrawal from sex education lessons, which the Head may or may not allow. At the same time, under the new provisions, children will be held competent to make their own decisions, which can therefore again override the parental right of withdrawal.
At first glance, the rationale may seem sensible. As everyone acknowledges, the world is a very dangerous place and all of us want to keep children safe. But the problem is that SRE programmes up to now have been a disaster, not just in failing to protect children, but by actually contributing to – even causing – the very problems they’re supposed to stop. In fact, RSE appears to be prematurely sexualising children by giving them too much information, too young.
The report, Relationships and Sex Education: The Way Forward, analyses why and how RSE policy has gone wrong, arguing that current proposals are not just flawed, but highly dangerous. It suggests indeed that much of current policy is not concerned with child welfare, but is rather ideological promotion of adult behaviours. The Report suggests an alternative approach that will realistically confront the problems, while prioritising child welfare and safety.
- An overview of normal child development and the alarming rise in diagnosable mental illness among children and young people by Dr Josephine-Joy Wright, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University of Worcester.
- Physical health vulnerabilities for children, including problems arising from juvenile conception, pregnancy and abortion, and the alarming rise of STIs among young people, by Lynda Rose, CEO of VfJUK, and Joint Convenor LCFCPG.
- The public health crisis arising from pornography and sexting, by co-founder of SaferMedia, Pippa Smith.
- The damage to boys, often minimised or overlooked because of concern over the need of girls to avoid pregnancy, by sociologist and writer Patricia Morgan.
- The effects of contraception on adolescents, looking in particular at failure rates and the health implications arising from different methods, by former GP and medical ethicist, Dr Rick Thomas.
- Abortion and mental health outcomes for adolescents, by Robert S. Harris, Director of Strategy VfJUK, and Joint Convenor LCFCPG.
- The underlying dangers of indoctrination from teaching Relationships Education to Primary school age children, by Clive Ireson, former Head teacher and now Director of the Association of Christian Teachers.
- The benefits of teaching natural fertility to all children, by Louise Kirk, UK co-ordinator for the Alive to the World values education programme.
The Report concludes with a set of alternative recommendations, including a call for mandatory health warnings to accompany all sex education; for children to be taught the values of self-respect, as well as respect for others; the value of commitment; and the overall placing of all such education within a moral frame, currently lacking.
A paper copy of the Report is available for purchase on the Voice for Justice UK website at £8.99, plus £3 packing and postage. Or it may be downloaded for free from the link below. We hope that parents and concerned educators will use it in framing their response to the Government consultation.
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