Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey has come under fire for backing the right of parents to withdraw their children from Relationships Education at primary school.
Speaking to Sky News, the Conservative party leadership candidate said that with young children, “parents need to have the final say”.
The Government’s controversial plans, set to come into force in September 2020, encourage schools to teach primary-aged children about “different kinds” of relationships, with no parental opt-out.
In her interview, McVey, the former Work and Pensions Secretary, was challenged over the Government’s response to protests by parents and LGBT activists outside Anderton Park School in Birmingham.
In recent weeks, parents have been protesting at the school’s promotion of LGBT issues.
McVey said people “shouldn’t be protesting outside primary schools”, but added: “The final say is with the parents.
“And if parents want to take their young children – primary school children – out of certain forms of sex education and relationships education then that is down to them.”
Unfit for office
She was quickly attacked by colleagues Justine Greening and Amber Rudd – two of the most prominent supporters of the new RSE curriculum.
Rudd, who succeeded McVey, claimed a “modern Tory party should not just be proud of our LGBT achievements, but champion them”.
She was also criticised later by Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, who claimed: ““Esther McVey is not fit to be a candidate for PM and not fit to be an MP”.
McVey stood by her comments, but also added: “I welcome that LGBT rights are taught within sex education”.
McVey follows Birmingham Labour MP Roger Godsiff in speaking out in support of parents concerned at the promotion of LGBT issues to young children.
Godsiff said: “I have concerns about the age appropriateness of children of four and five being introduced to these ideas”, and suggested seven or eight would be a more appropriate age.
But Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley denied children were being taught “about LGBT”, and branded protestors “a load of bigots” with “a religious extremist agenda”.
When it comes into effect, Relationships Education will mean teaching young children about homosexuality, transsexualism and same-sex marriage.
Protesters outside Anderton Park Primary School have been given a temporary banning order, which requires them to protest away from the immediate vicinity of the school or face arrest.