A legal challenge to stop compulsory lessons in relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in Wales has failed, after the High Court today ruled that the lessons are lawful. Wales Humanists, which has long campaigned for inclusive RSE for all children regardless of background called the decision ‘a victory for children’s rights’.
The case was brought by parents from a campaign group called PCP Wales, who argued that the removal of the right to withdraw children from RSE breached their common law and human rights. They said this was because it ‘promotes sexual lifestyles, gender theory and new sexualities’ and meant they would no longer be able to stop their children receiving ‘education on religious or philosophical matters of which they disapprove.’
However, in her judgment, Mrs Justice Steyn said ‘the content of the [RSE] Code and the Guidance is consistent with the requirement to take care to ensure that RSE teaching is conveyed in an objective critical and pluralistic manner, and does not breach the prohibition on indoctrination. There is nothing in the Code or the Guidance that authorises or positively approves teaching that advocates or promotes any particular identity or sexual lifestyle over another, or that encourages children to self-identify in a particular way.’ This echoes the findings in similar challenges to sex education in European case law which, as Wales Humanists commented in November, demonstrate why this case was always unlikely to succeed.
Justice Steyn also found that the claimants’ allegations about the curriculum were inaccurate saying ‘there is a disjunct between the contents of the Code and the Guidance, and what is alleged by the claimants. For example, some of the claimants have expressed concerns about the RSE curriculum based on their belief that it “reflects a body of educational advocacy known as Comprehensive Sexuality Education (‘CSE’)which originated in the United States”. It is clear that neither the Code nor the Guidance seek to encourage teaching which reflects the claimants’ understanding of CSE. Nor do those texts promote libertarianism or the sexualisation of children.’
The reforms to RSE, set out in the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021, have introduced a compulsory, developmentally appropriate subject to all schools in Wales and have been applauded by organisations such as the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner’s Office and Wales Humanists.
The new 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, with education identified as key to changing attitudes and behaviour to make our society safer for everyone.
Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick commented:
The Court’s decision is not just a victory for the Welsh Government, but a victory for children’s rights. This challenge was based on harmful misinformation about the new curriculum and a misunderstanding of human rights law. The Court has agreed that the RSE Code means the subject will be taught in an objective, critical and pluralistic way. It is therefore entirely consistent with the best evidence which says high-quality, age-appropriate RSE is essential to keep children healthy, happy, and safe.
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 full judgment.
Read the Welsh Government’s statement on the misleading claims leading to this case.
Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.
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