Humanists UK has expressed disappointment that new UK Government guidance on how to manage parental engagement with relationships and sex education (RSE) policy in England represents ‘another missed opportunity to fully back LGBT teaching’ in the subject.
In the guidance, the Government sets out what is expected from schools with respect to parental engagement on the introduction of the new subject which is set to become statutory from September 2020. However, it stops short of saying that schools must provide LGBT inclusive content in these lessons, merely stating that ‘ultimately it is for schools to decide what is taught and how.’ This means that parents who oppose such teaching may try to put pressure on staff to omit this aspect of the subject (as has been the case at both Anderton Park and Parkfield schools in Birmingham).
When RSE becomes statutory, primary schools will only be legally required to carry out relationships education, and it will be up to them as to whether to teach sex education. Secondary schools will be required to teach relationships and sex education. However, there is no compulsory curriculum content for either primary or secondary schools, leading to the protests that have been seen around LGBT content.
Although the Department for Education has said that primary schools will be ‘strongly encouraged’ to include the teaching of LGBT issues as part of their relationships education provision, departmental guidance on the subject gives schools the power to determine whether they consider this ‘age-appropriate’ and all teaching on RSE must ‘take into account the religious background of all pupils.’ Faith schools are also permitted to ‘teach the distinctive faith perspective on relationships’.
Humanists UK, which has campaigned for inclusive sex education for over 50 years and strongly welcomed the introduction of a statutory subject, has longstanding concerns that an over-emphasis on the religious background of pupils and parental consultation, along with faith-based caveats for certain subject areas in religious schools risks many pupils not receiving the education they need to stay happy, healthy, and safe.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager, Dr Ruth Wareham said: ‘Once again, the Government has issued guidance on RSE which gives the impression that the content of the subject is up for debate if parents are prepared to push hard enough. We have seen how this lack of adequate guidance has let down staff and pupils at schools in Birmingham, but there is nothing in this new publication that will prevent such problems from happening again. It is just another missed opportunity for the Government to fully back LGBT inclusive teaching.
‘Until the Government makes the content of RSE statutory, rather than insisting that it is up to schools to determine this in-line with the religious backgrounds of pupils, parents with bigoted ideological objections to providing children with this vital aspect of their education will continue to pressurise schools to avoid LGBT content and thousands of children will continue to be put at risk through enforced ignorance.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3000
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.