Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Parents’ role in sex education must be protected, say MPs and family groups

Michael Gove, education secretary
MPs and family groups have written to Michael Gove MP, the Secretary of State for Education, stating that parents must be supported and upheld as the primary educators of their children when it comes to sex education - see full text of letter further below.

The letter, signed by 20 groups and individuals, supports Mr Gove in his refusal to amend current guidelines on teaching sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools. The Telegraph "Wonder Woman" Campaign is among those championing a re-write of the guidelines and sees Mr Gove as the only blockage in their way. But family campaigners fear any such move would further undermine the role of parents and pave the way for compulsory sex education.

Antonia Tully of the SPUC Safe at School campaign told the media this morning:
"There are over 90 references to the importance of parents in the current guidelines which, as we say in the letter to Mr Gove, is an important recognition that parents matter. Those lobbying to change the guidelines have no intention of involving parents in any re-drafting.

We keep hearing that so-called ‘experts’ are needed to develop and deliver sex education in schools. We are saying that parents are the experts. We look forward to a response from Mr Gove."
The full text and list of signatories of the letter follow below.

Open letter to Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education

8 January 2014

Dear Mr Gove,

Sex and Relationships Education Guidance

Thank you for resisting the pressure to amend the current guidelines on teaching sex and relationships education (SRE).

We support and uphold parents as the primary educators in this important aspect of a child's education. Current guidance for schools on teaching SRE repeatedly emphasises the role of parents. We fear that changing the guidelines risks removing references to the importance of parents and would be a dangerous step towards compulsory sex education at all key stages.

Those demanding a review of current SRE guidelines do not want parents included in the review process. The Telegraph "Wonder Woman" campaign to bring sex education into the 21st century is calling for "young people, teachers, professionals and online experts" to review the guidelines.
This call has been taken up by three Labour Peers as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.

Parents must be affirmed in their role as the main educators of their children in matters of sex and relationships. Schools can support them in this role, but should not take over from parents. Sex education is a delicate issue and parents need to be encouraged to teach their children about sexual matters within their own moral framework.

Parents also have a crucial role to play in protecting their children from the influence of pornography via the widespread access to the internet available to children and young people. Most parents would prefer their children not to watch pornography. Yet the ideas being promoted by the Sex Education Forum on teaching pornography in the classroom are focussed on helping pupils to explore pornography, not warning them against it.

Current guidelines on sex education contain over 90 references to parents. This is an important recognition that parents matter. Another recognition of the primacy of parents is their right to withdraw their children from sex education.

This parental right has been under attack in those primary schools which deliver graphic sex education in compulsory science lessons from which parents cannot withdraw their children. We are pleased to see that the new National Curriculum for science in primary schools is clear that information about human sexual reproduction is not to be given in science lessons. We are also pleased that personal, social and health education was not made a compulsory school subject in the new National Curriculum.

The right of parents to withdraw their children from sex education is constantly threatened. Although this right is exercised by a minority of parents, its existence helps schools to resist pressure to use inappropriate material. There is absolutely no evidence that removing this right would have any adverse impact on the well-being of children and we urge you to maintain this important right for parents.

Further, there is no evidence that graphic sex education in primary schools lowers teenage pregnancies. A number of robust studies show that access to abortion and contraception, widely promoted in secondary schools, has not reduced under-18 conceptions.

Please remain firm in opposing any change to the current SRE guidance.

Yours sincerely,

Antonia Tully - SPUC Safe at School
Norman Wells - Family Education Trust
Sue Relf - Challenge Team
Dr Chris Richards – Lovewise
Mrs Valerie Ward – Union of Catholic Mothers
Edmund Adamus - Director for Marriage & Family Life, Diocese of Westminster
Tahera Ayazi – Tower Hamlets Parents Action Group
Yusuf Patel – SREIslamic
Professor David Paton -  Nottingham University Business School
Dr Lisa Nolland – Lords and Commons Family and Child Protection Group
Kathy Hearne - Campaign to Protect Children
James Wiltshire - Christian Parent Talk

David Amess MP
Bob Blackman MP
David Davies MP
Philip Davies MP
Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Mary Glindon MP
Sir Gerald Howarth MP
Jim Shannon MP
Sammy Wilson MP

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