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Children to be taught sex education and religious studies even if parents object, Welsh government rules

‘This change will require careful and sensitive implementation,’ minister admits

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 22 January 2020 11:38 GMT
Relationships education that is inclusive of LGBT+ people has drawn protests from religious groups in Birmingham
Relationships education that is inclusive of LGBT+ people has drawn protests from religious groups in Birmingham (PA)

Parents in Wales will no longer be able to stop their children from learning about religions, relationships and sexuality, authorities have confirmed.

Welsh children will be taught relationships and sexuality education (RSE) and religious education (RE) from the age of five regardless of their parents’ wishes, the Welsh government has said.

It follows an eight-week consultation launched in October on the plans to scrap parents’ right to withdraw their children from the lessons under a new curriculum in Wales.

Kirsty Williams, education minister in Wales, said the responses were varied and showed “strong and deeply held concerns”.

She added: “This change will require careful and sensitive implementation.”

It comes after protests against LGBT+ lessons took place outside schools following government confirmation that relationships education in primary schools and sex education in secondary schools would become compulsory in England from September.

But parents in England will retain the right to withdraw children from sex education until the age of 15.

On Tuesday, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman criticised the government for a lack of action over protests against LGBT+ equality lessons in primary schools, warning that tensions remained “unresolved”.

Ms Williams said significant feedback would be collected and trials undertaken in Welsh schools before the new curriculum begins in September 2022.

Debbie Laycock, head of policy at sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “By guaranteeing access to relationships and sexuality education lessons for all pupils, Wales is leading the way.

“We’ve campaigned for compulsory RSE lessons for nearly four decades and until now far too many young people have learned about sex through whispers in the playground.

“This decision by the Welsh government will go some way to fixing this. It’s absolutely vital lessons are LGBT+ inclusive and have a strong focus on HIV and sexual health so all young people have the knowledge they need to form healthy and fulfilling relationships.”

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