NSS calls for faith-based RSE to be included in review

Posted: Mon, 13th Mar 2023

NSS calls for faith-based RSE to be included in review

The National Secular Society has urged the government to consider the potential harms caused by faith-based relationships and sex education (RSE) in its upcoming review of the subject.

Last week, prime minister Rishi Sunak ordered a review into RSE amid concerns some schools are using age-inappropriate resources or teaching contested ideas about gender in RSE lessons.

In a letter to Nick Gibb today, the NSS said this review should include an examination of faith-based RSE, as it has found many state-funded faith schools teach discriminatory religious dogma as part of their RSE curriculum.

In 2018, NSS research found many faith schools explicitly teach that same-sex relationships are wrong and criticise sex outside of marriage. Many condemn contraceptives and abortion, and some teach taboos around menstruation. These teachings contradict advice from healthcare and education professionals and are inconsistent with the Equality Act 2010.

State-funded faith schools are permitted to teach RSE in line with their "distinctive faith perspective on relationships". Even for state schools without a religious designation, the RSE guidance says: "In all schools, when teaching [RSE], the religious background of all pupils must be taken into account when planning teaching".

Schools without a religious character have frequently come under pressure from religious lobbying groups opposed to teaching about same-sex relationships. One such group, Parents United, recently hosted a conference where speakers told attendees gay children must be taught to 'repent'.

Last month, research by Just Like Us found one in three teachers says faith acts as a 'barrier' to discussing LGBT+ topics in school. Amongst those who work at faith schools, the number increased to almost half, with 46% feeling that faith impeded their ability to engage in open discussions.

NSS: Not considering faith-based RSE will "fail thousands of children"

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "If the government is to review how ideologised teaching and resources lead to distorted, biased or inaccurate RSE, this must extend to religious ideology.

"A failure to consider how religious ideology distorts RSE will not only demonstrate inconsistency on this issue – it will fail thousands of children at faith schools who are being taught that it is wrong to use contraception and it is wrong to be gay.

"We therefore urge the government to include faith-based teaching of RSE within the scope of its review to ensure the curriculum is impartial, objective, inclusive and free from unscientific ideology of all kinds."

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Tags: Faith schools, LGBT, Reproductive rights