Since its publication in February, there’s been much debate about the Department of Education’s updated guidance for relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education.
One topic of contention has been parents’ rights to withdraw their child from RSE: with an online petition sparking a parliamentary debate.
The concern centres on the statement that, from three terms before their 16th birthday, a child can choose to overrule their parents’ wishes and receive sex education rather than be withdrawn. As the age of sexual consent is 16, the government believes that a child should have the opportunity to access sex education before this age.
The RSE guidance also states that parents will not be able to withdraw their child from relationships or health education – only sex education.
Withdrawal from sex education only may be complex once a child is in secondary school, as aspects of RSE are likely to be integrated in a single topic, so that young people learn about sex in the context of relationships – which we believe is important.
To waylay parents’ potential fears, the guidance does acknowledge that ‘parents are the first teachers of their children’ and makes it clear that schools must communicate what will be taught and when.
acet UK is passionate to see young people equipped to deal with issues around relationships and sex in healthy and well-informed ways. Whilst other adults, such as teachers and youth workers, can provide expert information and an independent voice, we firmly believe that RSE should start at home, led by parents and carers, and supported by the wider family.
Supporting a child in becoming a safe, healthy and responsible individual is a huge, and sometimes scary, part of being a parent or carer. You are primarily responsible, and best placed, for influencing their attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and skills - including those concerning relationships and sex.
However, while some parents and carers may feel confident in talking to their children about relationships and sex, many find it a daunting prospect - especially if they did not receive good RSE themselves.