Sex and Relationships Education
CARE believes that sex and relationships education (SRE) works best when parents are fully engaged both having conversations with their children at home, apart from what is happening at school, and in being fully aware of when and how this subject is being covered at school so they can follow-up at home.
This is important because the evidence suggests that children appreciate hearing about these things from their parents and good conversations with parents are actually the best protection. It is also important because in an increasingly secular environment Christian parents need to know that it is they and not the state that ultimately has responsibility for teaching their children sexual ethics.
In England and Wales the law requires that all secondary schools provide SRE and that all primary schools have an SRE policy, although this may be not to actively teach SRE (that is a decision for primary school governors). Crucially, in both secondary and primary schools the SRE curriculum is not determined centrally but on a school by school basis by the governors and head teacher who should consult with parents.
This decentralised approach to the curriculum provides an excellent foundation for ensuring that this important and sensitive subject is taught mindful of the ethos of the school and the religious and other needs of the children.
In March 2017, the Government amended the Children and Social Work Bill to change the law on SRE in England in a way which has opened the door for changing the way in which the SRE curriculum is set (thereby potentially undermining and eroding the role of parents), and requires that relationships education specifically must be taught at primary school with no right of parental withdrawal.
Parents will have different views on what constitutes a healthy relationship, depending on their culture and religious background. CARE believes they should be able to exercise their right to have their children educated in line with their religious or philosophical convictions.
The detail of the Government’s changes to SRE will be set out in Regulations which are expected some time during the course of the next Parliament. The Government has promised to issue a consultation on its proposals prior to the publication of the Regulations. Engaging with this consultation will be crucial as the final Regulations will be subject to minimal parliamentary scrutiny, with only one short debate in the House of Commons and House of Lords and no scope for amendment.
1. Do you agree that the delivery of good SRE depends on encouraging parents to talk to their children about sex and relationships?
2. Do you support the idea that the SRE curriculum should be centralised into a ‘one size fits all’ approach which would remove the current scope for parental involvement in shaping the local school curriculum?
3. Sadly, governors do not always consult parents on the content of SRE. Would you work to enhance the current decentralised approach to the SRE curriculum by calling for the provision of a legal obligation on governors to do so?
4. Do you support the principle that if parents are unhappy with a school’s chosen curriculum they should have the right to withdraw their children from the lesson?