Claimants representing over 5,000 parents and grandparents in Wales are taking the Welsh Government to the High Court in an attempt to remove Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) from the mandatory element of the The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 which takes effect this September.
Campaigners say that because of the mandatory element of RSE, children as young as three will be taught about sensitive and arguably inappropriate topics such as gender ideology, and that parents are being disenfranchised by being denied their right to remove their child from sex education.
Parents also claim that their government has misled them, since the original RSE draft in February of 2019 gave a hint that parental opt-out would be retracted at a later date.
Campaigners, include parents of gay and lesbian children, stress they are not against safeguarding or age-appropriate biology being taught.
Kim Isherwood, a parent of two boys aged 13-17, from Port Talbot, and one of the claimants, said most parents are oblivious to the new changes.
She said: “This new curriculum is not like the stand-alone RSE lessons that pupils and parents are used to. It is embedded into every lesson across the curriculum. The new mandatory element also means that every child, aged 3- 16, must take part. It cannot be avoided by anyone, and there are no rights for parents to request information on what will be taught, at what age, or to ask that their child sit out.”
Mrs Isherwood said that the group which she heads, Public Child Protection Wales, is already hearing reports from parents where schools are already trailing some of the resources ahead of schedule.
Lucia Thomas, from Porthcawl, said: “A friend of mine witnessed two six year old girls holding hands and an elderly lady said ‘you two are good girls looking after each other.’ The two girls responded by saying ‘we are lesbians and our teacher said that this was ok.’ Some teenagers, at the height of hormonal fluctuation, are told they should ‘explore’ whether they are Transgender, simply because although a female by sex they prefer boys’ games and activities.
“We are deeply concerned that in our current culture, there is a progressive, aggressive lobby which is seeking to push onto children and young people ideologies which parents would find inappropriate.
“School is a place to learn about vital biology, learn how to develop relationships (with both sexes) and to develop respect. But, as parents, we believe what is happening here is the sexualisation of children, not the education of children. Parents know their child best, and if appropriate, parents should seek external professional medical or counselling advice to support our child. But we do not believe the changes to the curriculum help children in Wales – quite the opposite. The new Bill plays on the emotions of children and can unnecessarily confuse them. This is nothing short of a breach of Safeguarding – and its being committed by our Government!”
The parents have instructed international human rights barrister Paul Diamond to represent them. Papers have been filed in the High Court in Cardiff. A response is expected in early May and if unsuccessful, the group will appeal, asking for an Oral Hearing. If a Judicial review is accepted, it is likely to be heard before the schools return in September.
The Welsh Government’s Curriculum for Wales – Relationships and Sexuality Education Code says that children aged three will be taught about acting with kindness, empathy and compassion to others; an awareness of diversity in families and relationships; the use of accurate terminology for body parts; recognising trusted adults who can help them when they feel unhappy or unsafe; and an awareness of how to keep safe online.
The Welsh Government said claims by the parents are “incorrect” and that all lessons will be age-appropriate.