Teens to get their say on sex education

The government have signalled a change in Relationship & Sex Education (RSE) to give young people a say in whether they receive sex eduation in school. Until now this has been a matter for the school (in how good or bad the provision is) and the parents (who are allowed to deny their children access to sex education in school up to the age of 18).

Yesterday the minister announced a shift in policy such that from around the age of 15 children will be able to overrule their parental opt-out.

In a written statement to the House of Commons the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds MP said,

“We have previously committed to parents having a right to withdraw their children from sex education in RSE, but not relationships education in primary or secondary. A right for parents to withdraw their child up to 18 years of age is no longer compatible with English case law or the European convention on human rights. It is also clear that allowing parents to withdraw their child up to age 16 would not allow the child to opt in to sex education before the legal age of consent.

“We therefore propose to give parents the right to request their child be withdrawn from sex education delivered as part of RSE. The draft guidance sets out that unless there are exceptional circumstances, the parents’ request should be granted until three terms before the pupil turns 16. At that point, if the child wishes to have sex education, the headteacher should ensure they receive it in one of those terms. This preserves the parental right in most cases, but also balances it with the child’s right to opt in to sex education when they are competent to do so.”

The “three terms” model is peculiar in allowing children born in the autumn months far earlier access to information than summer babies will have. A teen whose birthday is September 1st will be in the same class as one born on August 1st the following year, yet will be able to insist on their right to sex education many months ahead of their classmate.