Children as young as 4 could be exposed to explicit teaching on same-sex relationships under government plans announced today.
Education Secretary Justine Greening has outlined proposals for a new statutory subject of “relationships education,” to be implemented in primary schools across England.
The vague subject could open the door for children to be taught about a “bewildering array” of alternative lifestyles, causing confusion and undermining Christian values.
At this stage, it does not appear that parents of primary school children will be able to withdraw their children from such lessons.
The government has tabled amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill, which it says will also introduce statutory “relationships and sex education” in all secondary schools in England.
Greening stated that the right of withdrawal from sex education at secondary level will continue and gave assurances for faith schools.
Currently, local authority-maintained secondary schools must offer sex education, but primary schools are not required to do so.
Deputy Director for Policy and Staffing at The Christian Institute, Humphrey Dobson, said:
Many parents would object if controversial sex education teaching could be imported into the new compulsory subject of relationships education which will be required in all schools, including primary schools.
This could expose young children to concepts that they and their parents fundamentally disagree with for religious or philosophical reasons. For example, it could be used to manipulate children into agreeing with same-sex marriage.
Over-broad language could be used to get pupils to agree with all types of relationship (which isn’t right), rather than teaching respect for individual people (which is right). Forcing teachers to confront 5-year-olds with a bewildering array of alternative lifestyles will simply sow confusion and undermine marriage.
Right of withdrawal
Sex education has become increasingly controversial, with the push for ever more explicit materials to be used at an ever-younger age.
Parents are likely to have strong reservations about some of the materials dealing with subjects like pornography, transsexualism and contraception, especially when they believe their children are too young for this teaching.
In these circumstances, parents have always been able to withdraw their child from the offending element of the lesson.
If there is no opt-out from relationships education in primary schools, what will parents do if the subject is used as a pretext for controversial ideas or materials? Undercutting that right of withdrawal in any way would be highly controversial with parents.
In an editorial today, The Daily Telegraph stated its belief 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.
New Clause 5
The news follows a separate attempt to rewrite sex and relationships education, via a different amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill.
New Clause 5 suggested that “Relationships Education” be made a national curriculum subject. It was put forward by MPs David Burrowes and Maria Miller.