Welsh Government to undo legacy of Section 28

Kirsty Williams AM

Parents in Wales will no longer be able to prevent their children from learning about relationships and sexuality in the country’s new Curriculum.  Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement yesterday emphasising the need for ‘careful and sensitive implementation’ of the decision alongside a similar move on education about religion.

For many years there has been sex and sometimes also relationship education in most schools, but parents have always had the authority to remove their children from those classes – and also from classes where they might learn about religions.

The change is likely to improve young people’s mental health as well as understanding of people from different backgrounds from their own.

Announcing the move, the Welsh coalition government minister said:

Our responsibility as a government is to ensure that young people, through public education, have access to learning that supports them to discuss and understand their rights and the rights of others.

It is essential that all young people are provided with access to information that keeps them safe from harm.

Today’s decision ensures that all pupils will learn about issues such as online safety and healthy relationships.

The announcement was made following an eight-week Welsh Government consultation on ensuring access to the full curriculum, including the teaching of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Religious Education (RE).

I recognise this is a sensitive matter and the consultation responses reflected a wide range of views.

There is clearly a need for us to work with communities and all interested parties in developing the learning and teaching for RSE and RE – this work will be vital to enable everyone to have trust in how the change is implemented.

The Minister outlined plans for implementation which include the creation of clear guidance, resources and professional learning for schools.

A working group will engage in the development of RSE guidance, develop a shared understanding of the new curriculum and address concerns raised by faith and community groups during the consultation.

The Minister continued:

It is vital that we continue to work with communities across Wales to ensure parents have the right to develop, care for and guide their children into adulthood while allowing our schools to provide a broad and balanced education.

We will build on the community engagement which accompanied the consultation with a long term investment in listening to our communities and finding ways to address the issues which concern them.

The Minister also confirmed plans to establish a new RSE Working Group that will oversee the refinement of the new RSE statutory guidance to form part of the new curriculum guidance.

The Minister added:

I want to take the opportunity in 2021 to test the approach for RSE prior to it being made statutory in the new curriculum.

This will provide valuable intelligence to inform the refinement of our approach and will also enable learners, parents and carers and communities to see it working in practice and to feedback their views.”

Further details on this approach will be announced over the coming weeks.

In ensuring all children have access to information about sex and relationships as appropriate to their age this reverses the approach taken under notorious anti-LGB law Section 28, which was in effect from 1988 to 2003 in Wales and England.  It also helps bring Wales into line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.