Plans for controversial ‘Relationships Education’ in primary schools are “confused” and represent a state imposition of values on children, MPs have heard.
During a debate in the House of Commons today, Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh stressed that parents have the primary duty to bring up their children, and should be able to raise them in accordance with their beliefs.
Proposals outlined last week by Education Secretary Justine Greening could mean that children as young as four in primary schools across England are taught about same-sex relationships. Parents would have no right of withdrawal.
Leading opposition to the plans, which the Government has introduced via an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, Sir Edward said: “The State should not impose its values on parents”.
He argued that the “Government’s thinking on the matter is confused” and stressed that parents must be allowed to withdraw their children from the lessons.
“If we respect the rights of parents over sex education”, he added, “why trample all over their rights when it comes to Relationships Education?”
The MP also referenced the judgment by the UK Supreme Court last year, in the case of The Christian Institute and others vs the Scottish Government, which touched on the right to a private family life.
The judgment stated: “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world.”
Earlier in the debate, Labour MP Stella Creasy had urged the Government to ensure that young children are taught to “equally value” same-sex relationships.
According to a Government policy statement on its plans, Relationships Education is likely to focus on “different types of relationships”, “family relationships” and “healthy relationships”.
This could include teaching on homosexual and bisexual relationships, as well as same-sex parenting and same-sex marriage.
Secondary school Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) has also been proposed. It would include teaching on “sex, sexual health and sexuality”, but is likely to uphold a right of withdrawal.
Last week, The Daily Telegraph strongly criticised the plans in an editorial, stating that parents are always the best people to decide on what is appropriate for children.
It warned that teachers who hold to socially conservative values are already under extreme pressure not to go against the grain:
“Teachers know that saying anything that fails to conform to the prevailing sexual orthodoxies (as determined by campaigners and activists) could result in the sack or worse.”
“This decision will doubtless be greeted with approbation by MPs; but they also need to understand the limits to the statutory intrusion of the state into every aspect of our lives”, it concluded.
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