09 March 2017, The Tablet

Church welcomes compulsory sex education in schools

The Catholic Church has welcomed plans by the Department for Education to make it compulsory for all primary and senior schools in England to teach Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) as part of the national curriculum. Currently faith and free schools and academies are exempt with only secondary state-run schools obliged to teach SRE.

The changes, outlined in a policy paper, will be effective from September 2019. The full content of the lessons will not be finalised  until after a consultation period. Lessons will be age-appropriate and likely to focus on building healthy relationships, recognising self-respect, health and wellbeing online and factual sexual knowledge, said the paper. The Government said there would be flexibility in what is covered, with parents involved in the lessons’ development and an opt-out clause allowing them to withdraw their children from the lessons.

The Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, said: “Our schools have a long track record of educating young people who are prepared for adult life as informed and engaged members of society, and high quality SRE plays an important part of this … We look forward to working closely with Government to shape any new guidance to enable Catholic schools to continue to deliver outstanding SRE, in accordance with parents’ wishes and church teaching.”

Stephen Tierney CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust in Blackpool said the policy will make “not a jot of difference to our school – we have taught about relationships (and the anatomical side) for decades”. The challenge for schools will be, he said, how well SRE is taught.

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