It can hardly have escaped your notice that, after sustained and prolonged pressure from lobby groups, the government is overhauling the Sex and Relationships Education guidance which has been in effect since 2000. The argument is that the document needs updating, as society has moved on in the last 17 years and the guidance is woefully inadequate. What has also been called for, which these lobby groups have successfully acquired, is statutory status for a new subject of Relationships Education, which at secondary level will become Relationships and Sex Education. So, apart from the title of the subject and its new statutory status, what has changed?
The most significant piece of legislation since 2000 is the Equality Act 2010, which is rapidly becoming the most wilfully misused statute in our social history. It is, of course, the outcome of a government’s attempt to reconcile the ever-louder rants of individuals who group by self-interest and the fracturing of governance along the fault lines of identity politics. The concept of ‘self’ dominates, the liberal elite has a totalitarian hold on the media as well as much of government, and the concept of common good is alien to most of the body politic.
As a result, the Independent School Standards, hotly disputed when they were introduced in 2014, require independent schools to actively promote same-sex relationships and marriage. There is, of course, a world of difference between teaching the law of the land on same-sex marriage and its active promotion, but schools are judged by Ofsted on the latter, justified by the need to adhere to a singular, flawed interpretation of the Equality Act. The Act protects certain groups of people from unfair treatment: it does not require active promotion of an ideology. If we returned to the first principles of a fair society, there would be no need for an Equality Act.
Take the programme Educate and Celebrate, produced with lavish amounts of tax payers’ money and designed to deliver same-sex indoctrination through Literacy and music, so that parents have no access to the materials and may never know what their children are being taught. This, too, is the product of a wilful distortion of the Equality Act. Where are the equivalent amounts of money to produce similarly glossy programmes for faith, disability and race?
The core motive stated by the government for changes to the RSE curriculum rests in the need to support young people as they ‘prepare for life in modern Britain’. This is a world where children are sexualised at ever younger ages; where adults indulge their own desire for fulfilment at the expense of family stability; where groomed and exploited children (and their parents) cannot expect protection from public services, and where abuse seeps into the fabric of our social structures at every level.
It has created a moral vacuum which all kinds of lobby groups are exploiting, not least those calling for graphic sex education, teaching about gender fluidity, and the acceptability of different kinds of (unspecified) relationship. The current guidance labours heavily on the concept of safety, to the point where proposals start to read like a self-defence manual. It’s the outcome of a prevalent view that schools can solve every social evil. Teach children to spot an abuser; teach young people to understand consent, and ‘make young people understand what attitudes lie behind the words that they use’ and all will be well with future society.
And this is where the 2000 guidance is very different because it talks about first principles in relationships – individual conscience; moral considerations; the value of family life; marriage and stable and loving relationships for the nurture of children, and the value of respect, love and care.
It talks, too, about first principles in personal and social skills – learning to manage emotions and relationships confidently and sensitively; developing self-respect and empathy for others; learning to make choices based on an understanding of difference and with an absence of prejudice; developing an appreciation of the consequences of choices made; managing conflict; and learning how to recognise and avoid exploitation and abuse.
It is not about a safety manual for navigating the moral vacuum that is modern Britain. It is about teaching children and young people to respond to those around them with care, consideration and understanding. It returns to first principles, expressed within a moral framework.
The Department for Education is currently conducting a call for evidence, which is your opportunity to say what you want to see in the new policy. Current guidance states that: ‘Governing bodies and head teachers should consult parents in developing their sex and relationship education policy to ensure that they develop policies which reflect parents’ wishes and the culture of the community they serve.’
Argue for this, and against the imposition of a centralised curriculum. And then, when your child’s school starts to prepare for the implementation of the new policy, work to ensure that it is delivered not as the moral vacuum of a safety manual, but within a moral framework which returns to first principles of relationship.