Parents do not have the right to view sex ed material delivered in schools by outside organisations under freedom of information legislation, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has said.
Parents of children at Hatcham College had requested access to lesson slides used by the School of Sexuality Education (SoSE), but the ICO opted to protect the group, stating it would compromise the sex education provider’s “intellectual property”.
If the lessons were made public, schools might be able to use the materials without paying, which would impact SoSE’s finances.
Concerned parent Claire Page requested to see the resources being used at Hatcham College after her child was encouraged by SoSE to be “sex-positive” in RSE.
The School of Sexuality Education, a charity formerly known as Sexplain, is known for delivering explicit sex education in schools around the UK, and according to The Telegraph, children as young as twelve years of age are told that ‘heterosexuality as the norm’ is a “harmful” idea.
In a lesson for 16-year-olds, pupils are told to watch the controversial Netflix series Sex Education, despite it being rated as only suitable for adults.
Afterwards the class is asked to write down “a list of words that could relate to sex” and then to “try reading them out loud looking in the mirror (or on a video call with a friend)”.
Mrs Page’s subsequent Freedom of Information Request, to find out what was being taught in lessons by the external provider at her daughter’s school, was denied by the watchdog.
The ICO claimed that none of the lesson plans or slides were “so obviously inappropriate as to justify over-riding” Hatcham College’s “duty of confidence” to SoSE, given the financial implications of disclosing the information.
But earlier this year, Education Minister Baroness Barran stated that commercial interests “should not be a barrier” to schools openly sharing Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) materials with parents.
Department for Education statutory guidance states:
“Schools should ensure that parents know what will be taught and when, and clearly communicate the fact that parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE”.
“Parents should be given every opportunity to understand the purpose and content of Relationships Education and RSE. Good communication and opportunities for parents to understand and ask questions about the school’s approach help increase confidence in the curriculum.”
Mrs Page told The Telegraph: “Parents must have a right to know what their children are being taught at school and must not be shut out of sex education.
“Without access to the materials taught to our children, parents cannot raise legitimate concerns about the public service they are using.”
Miriam Cates MP commented: “It’s deeply concerning that the ICO has taken the decision to sideline parents and prevent proper scrutiny of the contentious materials to which children are being exposed.”
In June, the former Schools Minister Robin Walker told the House of Commons that the Department for Education expected “schools to share RSHE content and materials with parents openly and transparently, where requested.
“We are clear that they should not enter into any contracts with third parties that seek to restrict them from sharing RSHE resources with parents.”
In response to the situation at Hatcham College, a spokesman from the Department of Education said: “Schools are legally required to engage with parents on the teaching of relationships, sex and health education.
“We are writing to all schools this term to emphasise this and to make it clear that if a parent requests to see teaching materials, copyright law does not prevent a school from sharing them with parents in person on the school premises.”
A guide for Christian parents in England
There are good things that can be taught under the new arrangements but unfortunately the changes also provide an opportunity for campaign groups opposed to Christian teaching to push forward their controversial agendas in schools.
In September 2020, the Government released further guidance for schools