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, Relationships Education is compulsory in all primary schools in England and Relationships and Sex Education is compulsory in all secondary 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 are still 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 July 2020 we submitted evidence to and helped supporters lobby the Welsh Senedd on draft legislation for RSE reform.
- In November 2019 we submitted evidence to a Welsh government consultation on "ensuring access to the full curriculum" focussing on RSE reform.
- In March 2019 we submitted evidence to a Welsh government consultation on the legislative framework for the new curriculum. We supported efforts to make inclusive RSE part of the curriculum, while criticising concessions to faith schools which would allow them to continue distorting the subject.
- In March 2019 we submitted evidence to a Welsh government consultation on the draft guidance on relationships and sexuality education. We supported the expert panel's recommendations and suggested a number of improvements to ensure pupils had access to accurate and rights-based information, and to end to discriminatory or inaccurate RSE provision in faith schools.
- 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.
- In the years leading up to the new curriculum for Wales (to be introduced in 2020) we have been closely engaged with Welsh policy makers on RSE.
- In 2019, as protests from reactionary religious groups against inclusive RSE in England spread, we have been a pivotal organisation countering their misinformation, calling for better support of schools and holding faith schools to account over efforts to avoid the subject.
- In 2019 Andrew Moffat was selected to deliver our prestigious Bradlaugh Lecture, on his work promoting inclusive RSE.
- In November 2018 we submitted evidence to a DfE consultation on draft relationships and sex education guidance. While overall supportive, we drew attention to key gaps where it could be strengthened to ensure all pupils had access to inclusive, age appropriate and rights-based education. We pointed out problems where the anti LGBT and anti-RSE religious lobbies and faith schools could exploit a lack of clarity in the expectation to take pupils' religious backgrounds into account.
- In February 2018 we submitted evidence to a DfE consultation on changes to the teaching of sex and relationship education and PSHE, supporting making them statutory subjects. We argued that this would support the schools that are already following best practice, to empower schools that are facing opposition, to galvanise schools where RSE is patchy, and to challenge cases where RSE is being delivered poorly or with a narrow agenda.
Though comprehensive inclusive RSE is extremely well supported across the education community and across different belief groups, those opposed are extremely active.
Several anti-RSE campaigns have been set up, generally spearheaded by reactionary religious groups. They have spread fear and misinformation about RSE, and in some cases sought to intimidate schools and authorities attempting to deliver RSE. These campaigns have been extremely divisive and damaging to community relationships.
If you see such a campaign organising in your school or community, it is important to act quickly to address misinformation and show schools they will be supported. The government has published guidance for schools facing disruption from religious groups who oppose LGBT-inclusive education.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to raise any concerns.
What you can do:
Write to your MP
Tell your MP that religious concerns shouldn't undermine inclusive RSE.
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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