A judicial review into the Welsh Government’s new relationships and sexuality education (RSE) programme begins today. The legal challenge has been sought by a campaigning group who seek to ‘revoke the new… RSE Code and Guidance’ in relation to the removal of parental rights to withdraw children ‘from education on religious or philosophical matters of which they disapprove’. But Wales Humanists has said that the case is ‘based on misinformation’. And European case law shows that it is very unlikely to succeed.
In Denmark in 1976 parents tried to argue that their freedom to bring up children in line with their religion meant that compulsory RSE was unlawful, which was held not to be the case. In this similar more recent case in Germany it was successfully held that parents can be fined for illegally withdrawing their children from compulsory RSE. These decisions strongly point to defeat for the Welsh claimants.
The reforms set out in the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 have introduced compulsory, developmentally appropriate education to all children in Wales and have been applauded by such organisations as the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner’s Office and Wales Humanists.
The RSE Code makes clear the need for education that provides support, respect, understanding, and equitable treatment for all, regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, faith, or belief. The Code and Statutory Guidance make direct references to healthy relationships and safeguarding as education is identified as key to changing attitudes and behaviour to make our society safer for everyone.
The Welsh Government has strongly defended the new code and its approach to age appropriate education. Education Minister Jeremy Miles said:
‘Our youngest learners will be taught about friendships and families, they will absolutely not be taught about romantic or sexual relationships and this is prohibited by the RSE Code. The law is crystal clear: teaching of RSE must be developmentally appropriate for each and every child.’
Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick commented:
‘All the best evidence shows that high-quality, age-appropriate RSE leads to the best outcomes for children in terms of protecting children from abuse, improving sexual health, reducing teenage pregnancy, challenging gender stereotypes, educating about consent, and tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying. That these claimants want to deny young people this education is deeply alarming.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3060.
Read the Welsh Government’s statement on the misleading claims leading to this case.
Read our most recent article on the new Act and RSE code.
Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.
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