Compulsory lessons in sex and atheism “could cause chaos” in Welsh schools
Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, is pushing an education Bill which requires all pupils to study atheism or ‘non-religious’ views such as Humanism with no parental right of withdrawal. Under the new system a non-religious committee in each area is given a veto power over all religious teaching. So humanists, who actively oppose all religion, are to be handed control over religious teaching in schools.
The sensitive issue of sex education is also being given a total rewrite, imposing compulsory sex education for all pupils from the age of three. All existing safeguards on inappropriate materials are scrapped by the legislation with no guarantees they will be re-introduced in any future code.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director for Public Affairs at The Christian Institute, said today:
“Members of the Senedd are being asked to vote blind for a sex education curriculum they haven’t seen, whilst stripping away protections that took decades to achieve.
“Why Kirsty Williams would want to abolish these safeguards I’ve no idea. But it leaves sex education wide open to the risk that some teachers could opt for unsuitable materials that would not have been allowed under the previous law. Sex education groups have a long track record of pushing unsuitable materials on schools. Teachers are under huge time pressure and few specialise in sex ed so they could be dependent on these outside agencies for materials.
“Currently, individual primary schools can decide whether to provide sex education. It must be provided in secondary schools. But parents have a right to withdraw their children. This is an important backstop against unsuitable teaching since schools will not want to do anything that triggers parents withdrawing children. But this right is being abolished, despite overwhelming public support for it in Government consultations.
“At the same time, the equally sensitive issue of Religious Education is being blown wide open. Pupils will face compulsory atheism lessons with no right of withdrawal and no limit on how much ‘’Religious Education’ will actually be given over to anti-religious ideologies.
“Church schools can continue to provide RE which reflects the school’s religious character. But, if a humanist parent requests it, they will be forced to provide the local council ‘agreed syllabus’ as well. It is nearly impossible for most church primary schools to provide two concurrent syllabi on the same subject so this may force them to drop their own religious teaching. Of course, ordinary schools will not be forced to provide a more denominational RE. Like so much of this shake up of RE, it’s a one-way street that favours atheism over religion.
“With the rearrangement of the system for agreeing the RE syllabus, groups like Humanists UK, whose stated goal as recently as 2011 was to rid society of religion, are being given a veto on the content of RE. This is ridiculous.
“Parents are not going to like being side-lined from their children’s education on sex and religion – the two most controversial subjects you could imagine. And schools are not going to like being forced to teach controversial material that they, or the families they serve, disagree with. It could cause chaos.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Humanists UK’s publicly stated goal in 2011, prior to their organisational makeover
“the mental and moral improvement of the human race by means of the advancement of humanism, that is to say, the moral and social development of the community free from theistic or dogmatic beliefs and doctrines; and the advancement of education and in particular the study of Humanism and the dissemination of knowledge of its principles.” (Emphasis added)
From the objects clause of the trust deed of Humanists UK (then called the British Humanist Association) as registered with the Charity Commission until 2011
Sex education safeguards abolished by the
Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill
Education Act 1996
Sex education must encourage regard for moral considerations and the value of family life.
- – learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children;
- – be protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to the age and religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.
If a parent is not satisfied with the school’s approach, they can withdraw their child from teaching, except for that which is part of the Science curriculum.
Welsh Government Consultations on Right of Withdrawal
“Do you agree with making age and developmentally appropriate RSE compulsory for 3-16 years? Please give reasons.”
Yes: 10.2% (166)
No: 87.5% (1428)
Don’t know: 2.3% (38)
- – “Parents and not schools should decide on whether their child is taught RSE; the right to withdraw needs to remain and the rights of parents need to be assured. Parents understand the developmental stage of their child and need to be able to decide what is appropriate and at what age. This would also allow for any beliefs parents hold to be taken into consideration and for parents to bring their children up as they wish. Parents should have the responsibility of teaching their children RSE topics; ‘one size fits all’ is not appropriate”
- – “Teachers’ rights must also be considered. Teachers should not be forced to teach topics they do not agree with; their freedom of conscience needs to be considered. As a consequence of being forced to teach material they are opposed to some teachers may decide to leave the profession.”
“What implications would there be for learners, parents/carers and schools if all learners were required to receive RE and/or RSE lessons in the new curriculum?”
“The most common response was negative, with 991 recorded cases (60 percent); 349 were conditional, expressing both positive and negative implications (21 percent); and 320 were found to be positive (19 percent).” (See page 8)
- – “As a Muslim parent, I rarely withdraw my child, but it has always been comforting to know that my right exists should I ever feel a lesson is not right for my child… I feel the right to withdraw has always been a great way to acknowledge and accommodate the diversity of learners/communities and respect their backgrounds…”
- – “The proposals to remove the parental right of withdrawal would have a detrimental effect: they attack the right of parents to primacy in the education of their children, a fundamental principle of the Catholic view of education.”
 1996 Education Act s.403
 1996 Education Act s.405