Nine in ten oppose Welsh Government plans to make Relationships and Sexuality Education compulsory for all children
Nine in ten members of the public oppose the plans of the Welsh Government to compel all children aged 3-16 to receive their school’s Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) whether parents like it or not.
Under the plans, concerned parents would not be able to withdraw their children from lessons even if they felt the material was not appropriate for their child’s age and maturity or contradicted the family’s religious or philosophical beliefs.
Results from the Welsh Government consultation were publicised this week. It has now issued a new 8-week consultation which again proposes to remove the parental right of withdrawal.
John Denning, Education Officer at The Christian Institute responded: “This question has already been asked and answered. Many people would regard the Welsh Government’s decision to consult the public then ignore them as contemptuous. And parents are right to be concerned about whether the sort of material and beliefs likely to be forced on pupils are really appropriate for their own children. The existing right of withdrawal has historically been rarely used but is an important backstop protection which discourages schools from adopting radical approaches.
“Education Secretary Kirsty Williams says that she wants ‘all our learners to know that they have an inalienable right to be happy’. Does that mean if someone is unhappy, the rest of society owes them? One primary pupil at Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd summed up what he had learnt from a trial of these new lessons on relationships: ‘Be yourself, and if anyone judges you, don’t listen to them, and just do whatever you want.’ These statements directly contradict the Christian belief in sacrificial love. Many parents in Wales will agree that it is supremely bad advice for loving relationships.
“We recently saw headlines about primary school material developed by Warwickshire County Council which includes very graphic images and prompts six-year-olds to discuss masturbation. This material also pushes a view about transgender issues with which many parents may disagree and will rightly worry could be harmful to children.
“So the idea that the Welsh Government can be certain that schools will always be right and that parents’ views are irrelevant is actually pretty arrogant. We would urge the Minister to listen to the concerns and comments of those who took the time to take part in her consultation.”
Asked the question should RSE be compulsory for three to 16-year-olds, more than 1400 (87.5 per cent) of the 1632 respondents said no.
Common objections included children being too young to understand the topics, and the need to protect them from being sexualised.
One respondent said: “Young children should be allowed to have a childhood free from sexualisation. Parents can best decide what and when to discuss such things with their children”.
Some also raised the issue of teachers’ freedom of conscience, arguing that if they are forced to teach things they disagree with, some may leave the profession.
Other respondents highlighted parental rights and cited the Education Act 1996, which says that children should be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes.
They were clear that schools should be open about the materials they are using in RSE classes, and that these should be made available to parents to ensure they are not teaching values which contradict the family’s religion or belief.
Despite the strong opposition, the Welsh Government has said it would press on with making the lessons mandatory by 2022.
Mr Denning concluded: “Not everything is bad in these proposals. We welcome plans to teach kids about staying safe online, but where there is controversy about certain material, parents are effectively being told ‘the Welsh Government knows better than you how to raise your child’. This has caused considerable alarm and concern.
“The Welsh Government has an opportunity, as do local authorities across Wales and England, to work with parents on helping children develop the skills that will equip them for life. They should choose co-operation rather than coercion.”