Sept 3, 2022 – Abbey Wrightwick WalesOnline
Head teachers have welcomed a High Court ruling that compulsory relationships and sexuality lessons for all children can go ahead at the start of term in Wales but the Welsh Conservative shadow education minister said she was disappointed by the ruling. A group of five parents lost their legal action to block the lessons in a High Court hearing on August 31.
The parents wanted to withdraw their children from the mandatory lessons or stop the rollout of RSE altogether but judge Mrs Justice Tipples told the hearing that an injunction at this late stage would cause “very substantial disruption” days before the start of term. The parents had already been granted a judicial review which is due to be heard in November.
Relationships and sexuality education is part of the statutory new curriculum for Wales which will be rolled out for all children in primary and year seven children in around half of secondary schools from the start of term. Half of secondaries are delaying the new curriculum until 2023.
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union the National Association of Headteachers Cymru, said: “We welcome the ruling by the judiciary that will see plans to roll out RSE to all learners across Wales continue. NAHT Cymru firmly believes that allowing children to learn about religion, relationships, and sexuality will enable them to safely and successfully navigate life outside of school.
“We must give this generation of learners the opportunity to learn about themselves and others and how to keep themselves safe and healthy. While we recognise that this must be done in an age-appropriate way we must not lose sight of what we are trying to achieve, which is to support our children and young people to engage with different beliefs and a diversity of views so that they can develop their own understanding of and respect for themselves and others.”
Shadow education minister, Laura Anne Jones MS said parents should be allowed to choose whether or not their children attend RSE lessons in school. “The Welsh Conservatives stand firmly behind parents and their right to choose to withdraw their children from RSE lessons and to decide when certain topics are age-appropriate for them,” she said.
“We understand the plight of the parents in seeking to do this via the courts but understand and respect the judge’s decision today. However this is a discussion that needs to be had and the concerns of parents need to be heard.
“Sadly the Labour Government seem intent on ignoring the will of many parents across Wales. Fundamentally the decision should be in their hands, not the state’s.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The High Court has refused an application from a campaign group to withdraw their children from relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in September. All schools which are rolling out the curriculum from September will teach RSE in a developmentally-appropriate way as required by the legislation. This means all learners in these schools will receive RSE which is critical to keeping them safe.
“We are unable to comment on the wider legal matters as they will be dealt with in proceedings in the High Court. We remain confident our reforms are proportionate and lawful and we reiterate that the claims this group makes in its literature have absolutely no basis or evidence whatsoever.”