MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of Relationships and Sex Education regulations for England last night, making the subject compulsory in all schools and giving pupils the ability to veto any attempted parental withdrawal from the age of 15, amid reports of widening protests by parents in new areas of England over the plans.
The vote in Parliament to make RSE compulsory in all English schools from 2020 received huge support with 538 votes for and only 21 against.
But the news was dampened by new reports from TES and BBC Asian Network that protests from parents against lessons on same-sex relationships are widening beyond Birmingham to areas including Manchester, Oldham, Blackburn, and Bradford. The reports say it is part of a co-ordinated nationwide response from parents.
Humanists UK, which campaigns for inclusive relationships and sex education (RSE) in schools, including promoting respect for LGBT people as part of RSE, says the Government must urgently work with schools to calm tension amongst parents and ensure that more schools do not give in to religious pressure.
The opposition to RSE, including lessons on LGBT relationships where children would learn that there are different families including some with ‘two mummies’ or ‘two daddies’, has been led by mostly Muslim parents who believe the content is against their faith.
It began at Parkfield School in Birmingham where hundreds of parents began protesting against the school’s No Outsiders programme. The programme, deemed by Ofsted as age-appropriate, also aims to tackle homophobia in schools but it has since been suspended until after consultation with parents is complete. The Leigh Trust, which runs five schools, also announced it was suspending its lessons prompting huge alarm by Humanists UK.
Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘While it is encouraging that MPs have voted overwhelmingly to support RSE, including giving young people over 15 control over what they are taught, we are concerned that LGBT inclusive education is still being suspended in various schools and that, on the ground, parents are currently winning this battle.
‘Schools need to be supported in their efforts to teach respect for LGBT people and we urge the Government to intervene and ensure that they can continue to tackle homophobia, give support to LGBT students who need it, and teach equality for all irrespective of sexuality.
‘Looking ahead to when the compulsory guidance is introduced we are worried that some faith schools will also be able get away with not teaching LGBT-inclusive education. The Government must now start looking at how it will enforce comprehensive RSE in individual schools if protests from parents like these continue to mount.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3078.
Read our previous news item on the Parkfield School here: https://humanism.org.uk/2019/03/04/schools-move-to-stop-lgbt-lessons-after-religious-protests-is-deeply-worrying-says-humanists-uk/
For more information on our work on relationships and sex education, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.