RSE – Relationships and Sex Education in Primary Schools
The guidelines for the teaching of Relationship & Sex Education (RSE) are being changed the by the Department for Education following consultation and calls for evidence. The effect of such change is that:
- Relationship Education will be taught as standard in all primary schools in England
- Relationship & Sex Education will be taught as compulsory in all secondary schools in England
MINAB has been speaking with Imams and Mosque congregations and listening to their concerns about teaching Relationships and Sex Education (RE & RSE) in primary schools. We have also been liaising with the Department for Education and other stakeholders to understand the perspectives of all parties that have vested interest in the RSE debate.
An authentic, strategic, balanced and viable response is required to address the challenge posed by RE & RSE to Muslim parents with young children in primary schools. Practical steps need to be taken in a sensitive and measured way, to protect children’s wellbeing as well protecting the rights of all involved.
As part of relationships education, primary schools have been teaching children about different types of families for quite some time; from September 2020 this can include teaching about LGBT families. However, the schools should do this in a way that is sensitive to the needs and religious background of their pupils and is age appropriate.
The Government response to some of the questions, dated 29 April 2019, states that LGBT specific material does not have to be taught at primary school level. “Primary schools are enabled and encouraged to cover LGBT content if they consider it age appropriate to do so, but there is no specific requirement for this“.
Essentially, relationships and health education will not teach children about sex. Primary schools can choose to cover sex education in an age appropriate way, but sex education will only be mandatory for secondary pupils.
Religion and Belief
The RSE guidance provides teaching of RSE in schools may include a religious character or reference. “When teaching these subjects, the religious background of all pupils must be taken into account when planning teaching, so that the topics that are included in the core content in this guidance are appropriately handled.”
“All schools may teach about faith perspectives. In particular, schools with a religious character may teach the distinctive faith perspective on relationships, and balanced debate may take place about issues that are seen as contentious. For example, the school may wish to reflect on faith teachings about certain topics as well as how their faith institutions may support people in matters of relationships and sex. “
Consultation between Schools & Parents
Primary Schools can’t, of their own accord, decide what to teach to pupils. Schools must consult parents when developing and reviewing their policies for relationships education.
Although, it is ultimately up to schools to decide when and how different topics are taught, they must consult and listen to concerns raised by parents before making a decision on their curriculum content.
“Schools will be required to consult with parents when developing and reviewing their policies for Relationships Education and RSE, which will inform schools’ decisions on when and how certain content is covered.”
Building a Positive Relationship with Schools
We urge parents to build a Positive Relationship with their children’s primary school(s). Parents should not only find out what their child is learning but also to develop positive relationships with the Head, teachers and staff in order to become a part of the school community.
Such relationship with the school will enable parents to influence, in the interest of their children’s spiritual, physical and mental well-being, at what age and how certain content about Relationships are covered. For instance, parents can discuss the use of explicit images in classes, teaching about adult, sexual relationships before a child has even reached puberty. Parents can also discuss how discussion about those children that come from diverse families is reflected when teachers talk about families in their classrooms.
Building a relationship will increase the likelihood of parents’ voice being heard when concerns may be raised about matters such as Relationship Education and Relationship and Sex Education.
Another important part parents can play is by becoming a parent Governor as governors will be responsible for approving the RSE curriculum and resources.
Right to Withdraw
Until 1st September 2020, parents have the legal right to withdraw their child from all Relationship Education/RSE lessons.
After September 2020, parents will have the automatic right to withdraw a child from Sex Education in primary schools (except what is taught in science lessons) and the right to request child is excused from Sex Education at secondary schools. However, there is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education in Primary schools.
The Department of Education maintains: “There is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education at primary or secondary as we believe the contents of these subjects – such as family, friendship, safety (including online safety) – are important for all children to be taught.”
A template letter of withdrawal can be found below.
Learning about Relationship & Sex Education
Every human being should be treated with respect and dignity and their rights must be protected. In a debate about Relationships and Sex Education (RE & RSE) the rights of children, parents, faith communities, LGBT+ members should be considered and a balanced approach should be adopted.
Effective Sex education is essential if young Muslims are to make responsible and well informed decisions about their lives. Topics such as body development, emotional intelligence, sexuality, sex education and sexual orientation are of extreme importance in Islam , especially as we bring up our children in an increasingly sexualized society. However, conversations with children about these sensitive issues must be age-appropriate and mindful of Islamic context.
In addition to playing a positive role during primary school consultations, British Muslims will need to develop age-appropriate relationships resource for young children within an Islamic context, which parents, madrasah teachers can use to develop an understanding of these issues from an Islamic perspective.
We must prepare spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in our children and prepare them for the experiences of life, opportunities and responsibilities, with an Islamic understanding as well as the context in which we live in.
A template letter of withdrawal
Re. Withdrawal from SRE/RSE lessons.
Dear [name of headteacher]
I would like to withdraw my child [childs full name] in [year class] from all the Sex and Relationship Education lessons unless I inform you otherwise.
I understand this is currently my legal parental right until September 2020 when the legislation is changing.
After this date I would like to exercise my legal right under S405 of the Education Act 1996 to withdraw my child from Sex Education classes in your school.
Please inform me the topics that the school will be covering in the RSE lessons when I withdraw my child and I will ensure I talk to my child about these matters when I feel it is appropriate to do so and in a way that is most appropriate for my child.
Please let me know what provision will be provided for my child when [he/she] is not attending these lessons .
Many thanks in advance.
[sign and print name]