Opinion Former Article

Humanists UK comment: Government consults on sex education guidance in face of religious objections

A consultation on official guidance on Relationships and Sex Education in English schools is being published by the Department for Education on Tuesday. Following legislation earlier this year, all primary schools in England will have to teach Relationships Education to their pupils from September 2019, and all secondary schools must teach Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Despite the Government’s insistence that ‘faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith’, religious groups were quick to warn against any requirement for teaching to be fully LGBT inclusive, or for certain information on safe sex to be provided, objections that are likely to intensify following the publication of the Government’s guidance.

Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman, who is also a member of the Sex Education Forum’s advisory group, commented, ‘Children have a right to access evidence-based, medically accurate, and individually relevant information about sex and relationships. Given that this information helps to keep children healthier, happier, and safer than they otherwise would be, it would be unconscionable if they could be denied it simply on the basis of their religious or non-religious background, or the type of school to which they happen to have been sent.

‘This is especially true given the evidence that LGBT pupils of faith are more likely to have tried to take their own life, and LGBT pupils in faith schools are less likely to say that staff challenge homophobic and transphobic language when they hear it.

‘Whether or not children have a right to this information, all the evidence suggests that high-quality RSE leads to the best outcomes in terms of improving sexual health, reducing unwanted pregnancy, challenging gender stereotypes, educating about consent, protecting children from abuse, and tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying too. These benefits are too important to sacrifice on the altar of religious objection, so we will certainly be urging the Government to defend the better interests of children over the vested interests of religion.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 07970 393 680.

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘House of Commons approves RSE in English schools, whilst expressing concerns on faith school opt outs’: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/03/08/house-of-commons-approves-compulsory-relationships-and-sex-education-in-english-schools-whilst-expressing-concerns-on-faith-school-opt-out/

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on RSE: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/l-and-sex-and-relationships-education/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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