Ofsted has reportedly carried out a snap inspection of RSE provision at a school using a Catholic resource saying ‘men are created to be initiators’ and women ‘receiver-responders’ in sexual relationships, after Humanists UK lodged complaints with the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted.
Following an initial exposé in January, Humanists UK repeatedly raised concerns about the use of the resource – called A Fertile Heart – at St Mary’s Roman Catholic High School in Hereford, with the DfE and Ofsted, only to be told that neither would comment on individual resources and that complaints about individual schools should go through the school’s own internal complaints procedures.
However, following a slew of reports of schools, including those with a religious character, failing to tackle sexual harassment and abuse in schools, and the announcement that the Government had instructed Ofsted to carry out an immediate review of the impact of safeguarding and RSE in state and independent schools, there appears to have been a change of approach, with council insiders saying that a meeting to discuss RSE with the management team at St Mary’s was cancelled following news of a snap inspection of the school’s RSE and PSHE provision last week.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:
‘We are pleased that Ofsted has finally taken seriously our concerns about the RSE provision at St Mary’s and very much hope this snap inspection leads to A Fertile Heart being withdrawn from the school. Given the prevalence of sexual violence against women and girls, including in schools, it is simply indefensible for any young person to be taught that men are ‘initiators’ and women mere ‘receiver-responders’ in sexual relationships.
‘However, since schools with a religious character are currently permitted to teach RSE in line with the faith perspective of the school, the only way to prevent this kind of misogynistic, homophobic, and pseudoscientific content being taught is to change the law. That will make sure that all children and young people receive the objective, evidence-based lessons on sex and relationships to which they are entitled – regardless of the type of school they attend’.
In addition to teaching that ‘masculinity is more about initiating… and femininity is more about receiving’, A Fertile Heart also teaches that the contraceptive pill is dangerous, uses a video resource that likens same-sex marriage to polygamy, and argues that gay and lesbian people cannot legitimately marry and so must entirely abstain from sex.
Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Jess Phillips MP, who is working with Humanists UK on the issue of faith-based caveats to RSE policy, called A Fertile Heart ‘totally unacceptable’ and said ‘to suggest a passive role for women in anything but especially regarding sexuality is dangerous, it is the culture that ends in gross levels of sexual violence’. But last month the resource was defended by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff – which instructs its use in all Catholic schools in the area – on the grounds it ‘authentically reflects Catholic teaching’.
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.
Read our most recent article on why Ofsted’s school safeguarding review must consider the role of faith-based RSE in rape culture.
Read our article on the Catholic Archdiocese saying A Fertile Heart authentically reflects Catholic teaching.
See a sample of resources from A Fertile Heart: Receiving and Giving Creative Love.
Read our original exposé on A Fertile Heart.
Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.