MPs to debate sex education opt-out

Petition saying parents have 'fundamental right' to decide on whether to withdraw pupils garners more than 100,000 signatures

Caroline Henshaw

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MPs will debate whether parents should be able to opt their child out of sex-education lessons after more than 100,000 people signed a petition.

The petition organiser says parents have a “fundamental right” to decide what their children learn when relationships and sex education (RSE) becomes compulsory next year.

MPs are due to debate the issue in Westminster Hall on 25 February, led by the chair of the Petitions Committee, Helen Jones.

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“We believe it is the parent’s fundamental right to teach their child RSE topics or to at least decide who teaches them and when and how they are taught,” wrote Dr Katherine Sarah Godfrey-Faussett, who launched the petition.

“We want the right to opt our children out of RSE when it becomes mandatory in [September] 2020.”

The government responded that schools would be required to take into account pupils' religious backgrounds and talk to parents.

“As primary educators, parents must be consulted on their school’s curriculum for relationships, and relationships and sex education, and may request their child’s withdrawal from sex education,” the government's statement said.

From next year, all pupils will be taught about relationships in primary school and relationships and sex education in secondary school. State-funded schools will also teach health lessons.

The changes aim to address gaps in personal, social, health and economic lessons, which campaigners say do not prepare young people for today’s world.

A recent study found many secondary school students are not being taught about LGBT issues, abusive relationships or what to do if they are sexually assaulted.

Sex-education groups also say schools should teach pupils more about pornography, following research that found students need help judging it with a critical eye.

But others, particularly religious groups, have campaigned against the government making it compulsory for schools to teach about same-sex marriage and transgender issues.

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Caroline Henshaw

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