StopRSE has major concerns that the compulsory implementation of RSE into all schools severely encroaches on the human right of parents to raise their children in line with their own beliefs and values.
The few and limited rights afforded to parents (at present) are below and it is important that parents assert them.
The Right to Consultation
The government has clearly stated in the RSE guidelines that schools must consult and work with parents in their design and implementation of RSE and RSE policy. A consultation should involve the school listening to parents’ views and concerns and then taking them into consideration when developing their RSE curriculum.
Schools have been told that the religious backgrounds of children must be considered and that RSE topics must be taught in an age-appropriate manner. It is therefore of utmost importance that parents get involved and voice their opinions to the school on these matters.
In November 2019; the RSE guidelines were amended to reflect that schools should “engage with” parents rather than “consult” them. Regardless, parents are still entitled to request a consultation and it is essential that parents develop a working and active partnership with schools in order to have their voices and concerns heard!
The Right to Know What Your Child is Learning
Parents have the right to ask the school any questions they wish regarding RSE and they have the right to request workshops or meetings with the school to find out more.
Parents have the right to know what will be taught to their child in RSE and when. Good practice would include a school providing parents with a detailed overview of the topics being covered in RSE and exactly when they will be taught, where they can withdraw, all in advance, so that parents can prepare their children.
Parents also have the right to see the RSE resources the school plans to use and the school is obliged to make these available for parents to view.
To ensure their rights, parents must be pro-active and approach the Head Teacher to request an initial meeting to find out more about their plans for RSE and then arrange a consultation in order to find a constructive way to work in partnership with the school and ensure their views and concerns are taken into consideration
RSE and Religious Rights
The RSE guidelines state that the religious backgrounds of pupils must be taken into consideration when teaching RSE and sensitive issues. Religion is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act and it is essential that parents become active in schools and engage in debate, highlighting their religious views and asking how the school will take any concerns they may have into account.
All schools may also teach the faith perspective on RSE issues. There is no obligation for schools to do so, however the government has stated that they can. Again, it is therefore essential that parents from religious backgrounds consult with the school on this point and ensure that their faith perspectives on RSE topics are taught alongside any other perspective.
Rights of Faith Schools
Faith schools will have to teach RSE, however the RSE guidelines states that they can teach their “distinct faith perspective on relationships, and balanced debate may take place about issues that are seen as contentious”. However, the guidelines state that all teaching must reflect the UK law, including the 2010 Equality Act as it applies to relationships.
The Right to Withdraw
Up until 1st September 2020
Parents have the legal right to withdraw their child from all aspects of RSE.
After 1st September 2020
Relationship Education becomes compulsory and you cannot withdraw your child. Sex Education is optional and parents have the automatic right to withdraw their child from these lessons (other than what is taught in national curriculum science).
Relationship and Sex Education becomes compulsory. You can request the right to excuse your child from the Sex Education component of RSE. It is up to the head teacher’s discretion on whether to allow this but they should only refuse in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Three terms before your child turns 16, your child has the right to attend sex education lessons even if you have previously withdrawn them.