Pupils could get right to opt out of sex education


The “blanket right” of parents to withdraw their children from sex education lessons is being reviewed by the government as it is no longer consistent with English or international law.

Ministers say they will consult on whether pupils above a specific age should instead be allowed to choose for themselves whether or not to take part in sex education at school.

Parents will also not be allowed to remove their children from new relationships lessons at primary school.

The revelations are in a policy paper released by the Department for Education following an announcement the law will be changed to make sex and relationships education compulsory in all secondary schools, including academies and private schools.

The existing legal right of a parent to withdraw a young person up to the age of 18 from sex education is quite frankly now outdated

At the moment, it is up to parents to decide whether or not their children should receive sex education.

But the situation has been questioned by MPs, and the government claims that providing parents with a “blanket right” to remove their child is “no longer consistent” with English case law.

Officials say the right is also not consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights or United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Diana Johnson, a Labour MP who has previously questioned the government’s existing policy on sex education and pupil choice, has welcomed the review.

She told Schools Week the existing legal right of a parent to withdraw a young person from sex education no matter what their age is “quite frankly now outdated”.

“I hope that the government will now ensure that all young people are able to access good quality age-appropriate relationship and sex education for at least one year during their secondary education, as the last Labour government had proposed over eight years ago.”

Ministers will engage with schools over the proposed content of the new sex and relationships education curriculum in the spring, and will consult on a draft law and new guidance later this year.

Schools will have to teach the new subjects from September 2019.

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