Age-appropriate education about relationships is the right of every child. We think Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) should be taught in all state-funded schools, including faith schools.
High quality RSE ensures students are equipped with the knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to cope with the many pressures and challenges of adult life. RSE makes an important contribution to students' health and wellbeing.
What’s the problem?
Under the recently passed Children and Social Work Bill, RSE will be mandatory in all English schools. But the Government has also said that faith schools can "teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith", excluding key information for example about LGBT issues or contraceptives. Schools are also required to take "the religious background of all pupils into account" during RSE lessons, creating an unreasonable expectation that faith-based opposition to teaching about healthy relationships may be accommodated.
In addition, parents will still be able to opt their children out of sex education classes. This will leave behind children from conservative religious backgrounds, who most need impartial, appropriate education in this area.
"The Catholic Church's understanding the fact that homosexual orientation is distinguished from the evaluation of the sexual activity of homosexual people. The latter is deemed unacceptable as it does not respect the complimentary nature of male and female since it lacks the life giving potential to proper sexual love."
What are we doing?
- In addition to supporting the Sex Education Forum through formal affiliation, we've been lobbying key influencers and the Government to make sex education statutory. This was achieved in 2017 when relationships and sex education (RSE) became statutory in all schools, including those with faith-based ethos.
- We remain concerned that faith schools will continue to be able to "teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith" and that parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children. We are now campaigning to ensure that all children, irrespective of their religious or cultural background or the type of school they attend, will be entitled to the same protection from harm that balanced and accurate SRE offers.
- In 2018 we responded to a government consultation on Changes to the teaching of Sex & Relationship Education and PSHE, saying that religious influence must not allow children's education to be distorted or diminished. We also published a report, Unsafe Sex Education: The risk of letting religious schools teach within the tenets of their faith, which revealed that 77% of faith schools with a public RSE policy are failing to provide impartial sex education. We found examples of policies that say contraception and abortion are unacceptable, promote discriminatory attitudes towards same-sex relationships, and teach that masturbation is wrong. An appendix covered issues in Welsh faith schools - all of which taught the subject through their religious ethos.
What you can do:
Report a concern
If you have concerns about religious bias undermining relationship and sex education (RSE) in your school, you can speak to the school, follow their complaints procedure or get in touch.
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Read our 2018 report on the problems identified with relationships & sex education policies at state-funded faith schools.
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