The Department for Education is currently conducting a call for evidence, hoping to discover what parents and young people want to see in the new Relationships and Sex Education curriculum. The policy revision is proving controversial, with good reason.
At the moment, parents have the right to remove their children from sex education lessons, apart from those elements of the subject which are delivered through the science curriculum. Until recently, the right was rarely exercised, although there is now evidence that increasing numbers of parents are removing their children from lessons, or at least registering concern about lesson content.
As various groups have lobbied for their particular ideology to be imposed, parents have become alarmed, particularly at the rapid growth of LGBT issues. Of particular concern has been the trend to encourage young children to explore their gender, considering whether they have been born into the wrong body. Some groups are calling for young people to be given medical treatment to prevent puberty without parental knowledge or consent. Ofsted, too, has attracted criticism, because of its LGBT agenda. Last year, a school was failed simply because it refused to actively promote sexual and gender orientation to its five-year-olds.
Under the new legislation, parents of primary age children will not have the right to remove their children from Relationships Education lessons, when same-sex marriage and gender identity will be introduced to children from their earliest days in school. A recent survey showed that the vast majority of parents think that they are best placed to decide what, and when, to explain to their children about these issues. A similar number thought that politicians were the least equipped to make these decisions.
It’s important to register your concern about this, because once the policy is implemented, you will lose the right to remove your child from any Relationships Education lesson for which you don’t think your child is ready, or which you want to tell your child about yourself. Faith schools will be allowed to teach according to the tenets of their faith, as long as that is consistent with the Equality Act 2010, but if you have a child in a non-faith school, your personal view as a parent is not protected.
European human rights legislation determines that parents should be allowed to educate their children according to their religious or philosophical beliefs – this is enshrined in law explicitly to protect parents against state domination in matters of belief or morality. So you will have recourse to law. The problem is, what parent has the expertise or means to take their child’s school to court? And what would the consequences of such an action be for their child?
One argument is that the lesson content will be so non-controversial that nobody could object. That may, or may not, be correct. But it doesn’t protect against future extreme governments who may want to impose a singular agenda on schools – that could be the imposition of strict religious principles and the subjugation of women, or liberal principles that encourage child marriage or pederasty.
Protection of parental rights in all matters of belief and morality is paramount. You can make your views known via the call for evidence. Although the views expressed are not necessarily endorsed by Parent Power, the following organisations have published documents to help parents think through how they want to respond. They are:
After you have thought about what this means to you as a parent, you can register your response here
The consultation closes at 11.59pm on 12 February.