Government says it will ban sex education for under nines

The government has announced that it intends to ban sex education for children under nine years old, as well as place further restrictions how the subject is taught in schools.

In guidance for schools issued today the government said children will be protected from “inappropriate teaching on sensitive topics”  subject to an eight week consultation starting today.

The plans include:

  • Sex education will not be taught before Year 5, and at that point onwards from a purely scientific standpoint.
  • Parents will have the right to see the resources that are being used to teach their children about relationships, health and sex in all circumstances and new age limits will be introduced so that children are not introduced to content they may not have the maturity to understand.
  • The contested theory of gender identity will not be taught and the guidance confirms copyright law should not be a barrier to sharing curriculum materials with parents.
  • At secondary school pupils will learn about legally protected characteristics, such as sexual orientation and gender reassignment, but schools should not teach about the concept of gender identity.

The guidance follows multiple reports of disturbing materials being used in Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) lessons.

The government said it is important that schools take a cautious approach to teaching about this sensitive topic, and do not use any materials that present contested views as fact, including the view that gender is a spectrum.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Parents rightly trust that when they send their children to school, they are kept safe and will not be exposed to disturbing content that is inappropriate for their age. That’s why I was horrified to hear reports of this happening in our classrooms last year.

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“I will always act swiftly to protect our children and this new guidance will do exactly that, while supporting teachers to teach these important topics sensitively and giving parents access to curriculum content if they wish.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan added: “This updated guidance puts protecting children at its heart, and enshrines parents’ right to know what their children are being taught. It will support schools with how and when to teach often difficult and sensitive topics, leaving no doubt about what is appropriate to teach pupils at every stage of school.

“Parents can be reassured once and for all their children will only learn age-appropriate content. Schools should ensure that RSHE teaching materials are available to parents and that parents are aware of what is being taught.”

Yusuf Patel, from the Muslim Family Initiative, said: “Although it’s welcome that the government has recognised that there is a problem in schools – something which lots of people have denied for a very long time – this guidance isn’t perfect. The problem isn’t with how Relationships and Sex Education is taught in schools because parents can withdraw from that, it’s how it is interpreted to include elements which were not envisaged to be taught in relation to these classes. Statements around consultation have also been diluted, and there are no details around how Ofsted inspects it, other than general statements.

“So on the one hand there are some welcome elements but on the other hand there are lots of gaps still there. And that’s why we’ve published a report and we are getting parents to go to their local MP to discuss the nine recommendations in the report about what needs to change regarding RSE in schools. We are also going to produce a guide to support parents to respond to the government consultation that has been released today which they must respond to by July.

“So we hope that not only will Muslim parents visit their MPs with this new report but they will also complete the consultation in their tens of thousands so that we can shape how this subject is taught in schools and ensure that the guidance is fit for purpose.”

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