Pupils should be taught that abstinence and celibacy are 'positive life choices', C of E says

It also says that there is diversity in human desire – and that sex and healthy relationships are 'gifts from God'

Tes Reporter

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Pupils should be taught that abstinence and celibacy are "positive life choices", according to the Church of England.

It also suggests that pupils should learn that there is diversity in human desire – and that sex and healthy relationships are "good gifts from God and should bring joy".

In its response to the government's consultation on relationships and sex education (RSE), which closed last month, the Church of England's education office said that RSE in schools should teach students about "healthy relationships and staying safe".

The Church of England's response goes on to say that, in its schools, the subject will be "rooted in the teachings of the Church", including "the importance of trust, loyalty, fidelity and the Christian understanding of marriage as the context for sexual relationships...as well as the understanding of abstinence and celibacy as positive life choices".

Church of England blog

In a blog accompanying the response, the Reverend Nigel Genders, the Church of England's chief education officer, said: "Children want to be prepared for the opportunities, joys, challenges and responsibilities of being in relationships with other people.

"RSE must provide the understanding, vocabulary and strategies children need to keep themselves safe and to thrive within good relationships of all kinds. It should give children accurate information to equip them for life in the modern world and make sure they are not harmed or negatively influenced by unrealistic or dangerous materials and expectations.

"Our desire is for young people to flourish and to gain every opportunity to live fulfilled lives and RSE should teach about healthy relationships and lifestyle choices.

"Schools will be encouraged to reflect their own ethos and values while being sensitive to the needs of the community, including the context of belief, faith, religion and culture."

He added: "In partnership with parents, schools have a vital role to play in the formation of our children. Taking that responsibility seriously means we are not prepared to leave their development to the distorted representations of sex and relationships that are just a few clicks away on their phones and computers, but will actively promote staying safe, developing healthy relationships, and protecting self-esteem and good mental health.

"That's what good RSE should aim for, as it contributes to an education that develops dignity and respect."

'Diversity in sexual desire'

Under legislation passed last year, relationships education will be compulsory in all primary schools from September 2019, while sex and relationships education will be compulsory in secondaries.

As part of the move, guidance on the subject is being updated, amid concerns that the current advice is out of date and fails to address modern-day issues such as cyber-bullying, sexting and online safety.

In its response to the government's consultation on what content should be included in the guidance, the Church of England says pupils should be taught that "humans express their sexuality differently and that there is diversity in sexual desire".

It also says that pupils with same-sex or trans parents, those who have LGBT+ family members – and those who may identify as LGBT+ – should feel included and find relationships education helpful.

The document adds: "Similarly, pupils from religious or other belief backgrounds should also feel included, and their religious beliefs treated with respect and understanding, even or especially where such beliefs may not align with majority opinion.

“Pupils should be given accurate information as a basis for understanding difference and removing prejudice."

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