News

Relationships and sex education: 1 in 10 schools won’t consult parents

Pippa Allen-Kinross
November 14, 2019

One in ten school leaders plan to ignore government demands to consult parents on developing new relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons.

A quarter will form working groups with parents, but almost a fifth have not decided how to engage, according to a new poll by The Key.

From September next year, all schools must teach relationships and health education, and all secondaries must teach sex education.

However, some parents oppose the requirement. In Birmingham and Manchester several have protested about the content, particularly LGBT relationships.

Government guidance says schools must “consult parents” in developing their RSE policy and ensure it “meets the needs of pupils and parents and reflects the community they serve”.

Sarah Hannafin, a senior policy adviser at the National Association of Head Teachers, said the requirement to consult “does not exist for any other areas of the curriculum”.

But she said parental engagement “can be a positive step”, especially when there was “widespread misinformation or misunderstanding”.

“Ultimately it is for schools to decide what is taught and how.”

The Key survey of 674 school leaders and governors found 24 per cent would form a working party with interested parents on the new curriculum.

Twenty-three per cent were planning information sessions, 17 per cent said they would survey parents and 12 per cent had an “open door policy” for parents.

Lucy Emmerson, the director of the Sex Education Forum, said it was “encouraging” so many schools were planning to involve parents in RSE.

However, 17 per cent said they still do not know how they would do that, and 9 per cent had no plans to consult at all.

Respondents could select multiple options in the survey – and some schools were pursuing more than one approach.

Alastair Lichten, the head of education at the National Secular Society, warned schools should not start “lending credence to unreasonable expectations that the course content will be subject to parental whim or veto.

“A school’s overriding duty is to deliver RSE in a way that is comprehensive, non-discriminatory and rights-based. Any consultation must not undermine that.”

The high court is due to rule tomorrow whether to keep an exclusion zone outside Anderton Park school, in Birmingham.

Birmingham City council has lodged an application to make the zone permanent after scores of parents protested against the school’s planned LGBT lessons.

The council said noisy protests meant some children were unable to use the playground.