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Parents and MPs protest over 'state takeover' of parenting in sex ed row

27 February 2019

​A state takeover of parenting?

"A fundamental shift of power to the state." 

Ministers have been accused of mounting a "state takeover" of parenting , as the Government released new draft guidelines on relationships and sex education, which will be compulsory in all schools from September 2020.

Parental opt-out rights reduced

On Monday, the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, made a statement to the House of Commons on the Government’s proposals for the draft regulations and guidance on relationships education, relationships and sex education, and health education.

The guidelines state that parents will not be able to withdraw their children from health and relationships education. They will continue to be allowed withdraw their children from sex education at primary school, but at secondary school parents have to request withdrawal from sex education, and headteachers can deny the request in "exceptional circumstances". At 15 pupils can override their parents’ wishes and attend sex education lessons.

A number of Conservative backbenchers challenged Mr Hinds on the opt-out rights, with many detailing the concerns expressed by parents. Sir Edward Leigh said: "All previous Conservative Governments have given an untrammelled right to parents to remove their children from sex education. But here in certain circumstances that right has been transferred to the headteacher. A fundamental shift of power to the state."

Huge amount of concern from parents

On the same day, MPs debated a motion  sparked by a petition signed by 106,000 people calling on the Government to "give parents the right to opt their children out of Relationship and Sex Education."

Several MPs from different parties raised concerns that the rights of parents to bring up children according to their own values are being breached. Shabana Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Ladywood, said that schools in her constituency have been introducing controversial relationships education without consulting parents, which is legally required. "Everybody feels it is okay to ride roughshod over orthodox communities and push them to one side," she said.

Sir John Hayes emphasised the vital role parents play in teaching their children about sex and relationships, saying: "Much the best way of growing up to be a well-balanced, kind, caring and loving person is to have well balanced, kind and caring parents. It is in the home that people’s ideas are first shaped and formed, notwithstanding the influences to which they are subject later on. For that reason, parents and parental choice are critically important."

Government must change track

Antonia Tully, of SPUC's Safe at School Campaign said: "Parents are increasingly concerned as the Government seems determined to trample over their rights to bring up their children in line with their own values. 

"We've had a tremendous response to our campaign on parental rights - SPUC Safe at School has sent nearly 250,000 campaign postcards to parents, grandparents and other concerned citizens across England calling on the Secretary of State to do a U-turn on the legislation which prohibits parents from taking their children out of Relationships Education lessons.

"We will be analysing the new draft guidance carefully and alerting supporters as to the next steps."

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