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Why RSE matters at this election

Why does the contents of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and how it is taught in schools matter to Christians? How might we understand RSE as a general election issue?

At CARE, we believe that high quality Relationship and Sex Education is crucial for helping children and teenagers rightly understand God’s gift of sex in a responsible way and in its appropriate setting. We believe that the primary relationship that children have for their wellbeing and development, nurturing and education is within their families and with their parents.

It follows from these two points that RSE works best when parents take the lead and are fully engaged with what schools are teaching.

As you may well be aware, laws passed in Parliament in 2017 mean that from September 2020 all primary schools will be required to teach relationships education and all secondary schools required to teach relationships and sex education.

The new laws in some ways support parents, requiring schools to consult them as they draw up the new curriculum, and in other ways oppose parents, taking away the final decision about whether their child receive sex education at secondary school and putting this in the hands of headteachers.

Many schools will teach these new subjects well with their positive focus on issues such as caring and respectful relationships, consent within intimate relationships, and safety online.

However, at CARE we are concerned that in the situation where these subjects are taught with an ideological agenda, Christian parents will not be able to properly exercise their responsibility for their children by withdrawing them from the problematic elements of the curriculum.

At the heart of this issue is whether or not the Government trusts parents to make the best decisions for their children. Who has the final authority to decide what children are taught and when?

As one MP noted in a recent debate on RSE,

“It is not for the state to decide the morality and standards of each family in the United Kingdom. It is for those families and parents to decide, and it should not be otherwise. …fundamental to the values of a democratic society is our respect of the privacy of each other’s family life at home and our upholding of the freedom of conscience, thought and religion.”[i]

At CARE we believe that the Bible’s vision for sex and intimacy within marriage is a precious and liberating truth that enables humans to flourish. This distinctive Christian vision of sex and intimacy is, however, often at odds with the dominant view in UK society.

Whichever Party next forms Government will therefore have a key role to play in protecting the ability of parents to educate their children in line with their beliefs. They will also lead with the way in determining how these new subjects are taught, and in ironing out any issues that develop.

For Christians, who the politicians are who get to decide these important issue really does matter.

Our detailed briefing on Relationship and Sex Education is a good place to start for more information on what’s been happening in Parliament, where the parties stand and what questions you can ask your candidates.

Jonathan Williams

CARE’s Family Policy Officer

[i] Jim Shannon, Westminster Hall Debate on RSE, February 2019. http://bit.ly/2qxtbBJ