MP launches parliamentary bill to force schools to be transparent about sex education

A Tory MP has introduced a proposed new law in Parliament which aims to force schools to allow parents to scrutinise sex education lesson plans.

Miriam Cates, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, introduced the “sex education transparency” Private Members’ Bill in Parliament yesterday.

If the bill eventually becomes law it would create a legal duty for English schools to share materials used in Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) lessons with parents, and prevent schools from using unpublished materials if they are produced by a third-party provider.

The bill comes amid an urgent review, launched by the government, into the graphic sex education material being presented to schoolchildren.

Private Member’s Bills have a lower chance of becoming law compared to bills introduced by the government. However, they can still play a significant role in shaping public discourse, drawing attention to specific issues, and influencing the legislative agenda.

Miriam Cates tweeted: “Today I’ll introduce a Bill in Parliament to give parents the legal right to see materials used in relationships & sex education lessons, and prohibit schools from using any externally produced teaching resources that are not available for public scrutiny.

“A recent Civitas study… showed 77% of parents think that they should have unrestricted legal rights to view RSE materials. But over the last year, as increasingly disturbing examples of extreme sex education materials have emerged, it has become apparent that some schools are refusing to share resources and lesson plans with parents. Many of these materials are produced by third party organisations and purchased by schools for use in the classroom.

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“In March, the Secretary of State for Education wrote to schools to remind them that they should make RSE materials available to parents and to warn them not to agree to contractual restrictions that would prevent them from showing externally produced resources.

“However earlier this month, London mother Clare Page lost a legal appeal to get a school to disclose sex education materials used in her daughter’s lesson. The Judge decided that, since the DfE’s transparency guidance is not statutory, the commercial interests of the sex education provider outweighed the public interest in viewing the materials. This Bill would prevent this situation from happening again.

“It is absurd to use a ‘commercial interest’ argument to stop parents – and the wider public – from viewing resources that are being paid for by the taxpayer. Copyright law exists to prevent people profiting from the work of others, not to avoid scrutiny. Schools send maths and history text books home, and members of the public can buy these books if they wish to scrutinise them. RSE includes highly sensitive & contested topics and it’s concerning that any school or sex education provider would want to hide what is being taught.

“The Bill would therefore ensure that any externally produced RSE resources are also available in the public domain and can be scrutinised. As with all private member’s bills, this is highly unlikely to become law. But I hope to persuade the Government to use its powers to make the transparency guidance statutory.”

Miriam Cates. UK Parliament

Last month a report from Civitas, based on research conducted by Deltapoll, analysed responses from over 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds and parents of 12 to 16-year-olds about the teaching of LGBT ideology in schools across England.

It found that one in three teenagers (32 per cent) had been informed that a “woman can have a penis.”

Although 80 per cent of teenage respondents said their school “positively encourages different viewpoints when discussing contentious social issues (on gender, sexuality, and sex),” more than a third (35 per cent) admitted: “I don’t feel comfortable contributing my opinion in case it leads to me being judged or bullied by other students.”

Meanwhile, nearly six in ten parents (59 per cent) opposed schools “telling pupils that a man could get pregnant,” with only 17 per cent in favour.

On Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), 77 per cent said parents should have the “unrestricted legal right to see all” materials and lessons plans, with only 14 per cent against. A further 64 per cent supported the right of withdrawal.

The report’s author, Jo-Anne Nadler, warned: “Parents need to be vigilant about exactly what is being taught to children and by whom. Teaching children how to think is being replaced with an activist-led vision designed to teach children what to think but an education system that fails to enable and encourage the diversity and inclusion of different viewpoints isn’t really an education system at all.”

Also last month, the Prime Minister warned that the country “can’t lose sight” of ensuring that “what our children are exposed to at schools is appropriate for them,” such as in sex education lessons.

Rishi Sunak said: “I’m a parent, and I think most parents would care about that. They’d want to know what their kids were being taught, what materials they were being exposed to.”

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