Roger Kiska on the government’s announcement that schools can delay their introduction of Relationships and Sex Education
September 2020 is just around the corner, at which time the government’s new regulations on Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will take force. If you are not yet familiar with the new regulations, Christian Concern has put together this video to guide you through what will be taught and what may be taught. The regulations will apply to all schools in England, regardless of whether your child’s school is maintained or independent.
However, one of the fundamental statutory requirements put in place under the regulations to safeguard parental rights is that schools must consult parents when drafting their school’s RSE policy, which includes informing parents of what is to be taught their children. To be clear, while the Department for Education, in guidance it released in October 2019 refers to this process as ‘parental engagement’, the law could not be any more clear that no less than consultation should take place. This means that your ability to give feedback should be robust and that the school must give due regard to the views of parents during the consultation process. Anything less would be a breach of the school’s statutory duty towards your rights.
Department for Education Delays Start of RSE
In a victory for parental rights, the Department for Education has now announced that while the new regulations making RSE compulsory will still take effect from September 2020, schools will nevertheless be able to delay introducing it into their pupils until Summer term 2021. The Department made their decision because of the impact of the coronavirus restrictions on education and how it has hampered the ability of schools to consult parents about their RSE policies.
We therefore encourage parents to write their children’s schools asking when those consultations will take place; letting them know that you support a delayed roll out of RSE given the short time frame between now and September.
The team at the Christian Legal Centre has put together the following draft letter to assist parents in engaging with their schools:
Dear [Headteacher Name],
I write this letter on behalf of my son/daughter, [child’s name], in Year [R-6].
I understand that from September 2020, new regulations requiring that relationships education be taught in the school will take force but that schools may delay beginning RSE until the summer term of 2021 as per the announcement of the Department for Education on 04 June 2020.
I am also aware that as a statutory pre-condition to relationships education being taught my child, the school must consult with parents as to the contents of the school’s RSE policy and what it intends to teach my child.
Would you please let me know when that consultation will be taking place and what materials will be used as part of the teaching of relationships education?
I am aware that time is of the essence because of how close we are to September 2020. Given the potential impact of how and what will be taught as part of relationships education on the manner in which I choose to raise my child in accordance with my Christian faith, I would urge the school to take the extension granted by the Department for Education to fully assess the needs of parents and ensure a robust consultation process.
There is strength in numbers! Please act now for the benefit of our children.
Know Your Rights
As a helpful guide about your rights, it is important to note that schools do not have unfettered discretion in deciding on the content of RSE classes. In fact, schools are bound by numerous statutory requirements governing what and how they select material to be presented as part of RSE:
The material must be age appropriate [Section 34(3) of the Children and Social Welfare Act 2017];
The material must have due regard for the religious background of the pupils [also Section 34(3) of the Children and Social Welfare Act 2017];
The process in which the material is chosen and taught must respect the manner in which parents wish to raise their children in accordance with their own religious and philosophical convictions [Protocol 1, Article 2, European Convention on Human Rights];
The material cannot indoctrinate as to sensitive moral issues; i.e. any material chosen and the manner in which it is taught must be critical, objective and pluralistic [Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark, Judgment, Merits, App No 5095/71 (A/23),  ECHR 6, IHRL 15 (ECHR 1976), 7th December 1976, European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR]];
The material, and the way it is selected must have due regard to the school’s public sector equality duty to promote good relations among those with different protected characteristics, meaning that the school must have due regard not to cause offense or discord to parents of a faith background [Section 149(1)(c) Equality Act 2010];
Schools must consult with parents when drafting and amending their RSE policies [Section 80B(3) Education Act 2002; Section 2A(f) Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014];
Regard must be given to the principle that pupils are to be educated in accordance with their parents’ wishes [Section 9, Education Act 1996];
The pursuit or promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject is forbidden [Section 406, Education Act 1996].
LGBT elements are not required to be taught as part of Primary school Relationships Education [Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards, Parliamentary Question Period 25 June 2019].