Below is a summary of what has happened to date and what is currently taking place with regards to the update RSE guidance.
Timeline of Key Events
- 2000 – The current guidance on Sex Education was published.
- 2017 – The government announced that it was preparing updated guidance that would be mandatory in all school settings.
- 2018 – A public consultation was held regarding aspects of the content of the new guidance.
- February 2019 – the government published the draft updated guidance along with the results of the consultation.
- February 2019 – a statutory instrument (the means by which the draft guidance will be enshrined in law) was published and started its journey through parliament.
- September 2020 – the date when it is proposed the guidance will become mandatory in all UK schools.
Summary of Key Concerns
The main concerns that have been identified with the draft guidance are as follows:
- The use of vague terminology such as ‘age-appropriate’ and how this is determined.
- The inclusion and emphasis on the LGBT lifestyles and sex outside marriage.
- The unbiblical way that marriage and families are portrayed.
- The erosion of the parental right to withdraw children from sex and relationship education.
Where we are now?
Statement to Parliament:
- On Monday, 25 February 2019, Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, made a statement to update the House of Commons on the Government’s proposals for the Draft statutory guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Health Education (February 2019), following the public consultation.
- After the announcement had been made, there were a series of questions and statements from MPs.
- A number of MPs expressed the concerns of their constituents over parental responsibility and the right to withdraw.
- Reference was also made to constituents who may consider home education as a result of the proposed guidance.
- A transcript of the announcement and MP’s contributions can be found by clicking here.
Westminster Hall Debate – Right to Withdraw:
- Also on 25th February, Parliament debated a petition – “Give parents the right to opt their child out of Relationship and Sex Education” as a Westminster Hall debate, triggered when 100,000 signatures were achieved (currently this now stands at 113,061).
- A range of opinions and views were expressed and will detail can be found by clicking here. (Although we may not agree with all that was said, the contributions from the following MPs were helpful: Shabana Mahmood, Fiona Bruce, Naz Shah, Sammy Wilson, and Jim Shannon.)
- For some reason, the announcement by the Secretary of State for Education was made whilst the debate in the Westminster Hall was taking place, thereby diluting the opportunity for MPs to have their voices heard in both locations.
Response to Public Consulation:
- As well as publishing the proposed draft guidance, the Government’s response to the consultation on the initial draft of the guidance that ended in November 2019 was also published.
- From reading the response document it is clear that many concerns were expressed about the proposed content and delivery of sex and relationship education. Although these were noted, they do not appear to have impacted on the final guidance document. (This is probably best illustrated by looking at Table 1 (page 24-28) in the response to the consultation document.
- What has also become apparent in analysing the response to the Government’s plans for RSE is the strength of concern that is being expressed by Muslims and Jews in addition to those expressed by Christians.
- At the time of publishing the draft guidance for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education, a draft Statutory Instrument was also published and this would be the means of the draft guidance becoming law.
- There is now a period of time before the Statutory Instrument is finally approved. and there is still the possibility that it could be annulled by the House of Lords or House of Commons. (Information on the stages involved in the journey of the draft Statutory Instrument through both Houses can be found by clicking here.)
- The draft Statutory Instrument is due to return to the House of Commons on Thursday, 28 March 2019 and a motion “that the draft Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019, which were laid before this House on 25 February, be approved” has been laid down by the Secretary of State for Education. (Although, it may not be considered on this date!)
What Can I do?
Naturally speaking, it may seem that the passage and approval of the draft Statutory Instrument is a foregone conclusion. However, is there anything too hard for the Lord?
- CViE would urge all those with a concern for the well-being of young people and children to pray that the Lord would overturn the passage of the draft Statutory Instrument – although there are only a limited number of occasions when this has happened, it does not mean that it cannot happen – If God before us who can be against us.
- It may be appropriate to make your concerns known to your constituency MP either by writing in your own words your concerns over the content and right of withdrawal within the proposed guidance and to ask them to vote against approving the proposed Statutory Instrument.