The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill currently before the Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru proposes fundamental changes to the roles of parents and the state in Wales in respect to the education of children.
In particular, the Bill proposes:
- Replacing Sex Education with a new mandatory subject called Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) for children aged 3-16 years old.
- Replacing Religious Education with a new mandatory subject called Religion, Values and Ethics (RVE).
For both subjects, the Bill also proposes to remove entirely the right of parents to withdraw their children. This right previously applied to both Sex Education and Religious Education.
The Bill further proposes to remove the law the current requirement that children learn about the nature of marriage and the importance of family life and are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to their religious and cultural background.
Why We Think This Matters
The parental right of withdrawal is an important signal that ultimately children are the responsibility of parents and not the state. Its provision has been a key guarantor of the limited, liberal constitutional state and creates a very proper incentive for schools to listen to parents in order to minimise withdrawals. If after these conversations parents feel that their children would otherwise be exposed to material and teaching that stands in opposition to their own family’s values and identity, then they can, under the existing law, withdraw their child from the lesson.
Both the new Relationships and Sexuality Education and the Religion Values and Ethics subjects touch directly on questions of worldview and value more than perhaps any other subject. These are also subjects where people disagree profoundly. Therefore, the parental right of withdrawal is an entirely appropriate right and one that should not be removed as the Welsh Government now proposes.
What Can You Do?
The Bill is scheduled to have its Stage 1 debate in the Senedd on 15 December. Please would you write to your five Members of the Senedd and ask them, as your representatives, to adopt the position of stating that they cannot vote for the Bill in its current form at Stage 1, and that in order for them to be able to do so at Stage 4, the serious problems highlighted below must be addressed through amendments during the remaining stages of the Bill:
The right of withdrawal in RSE and RVE should be restored, underlining the fact that in a liberal democratic society children are the ultimate responsibility of their parents and not the state and that, as a consequence of this, that parents are recognised to be the “primary educators” of their children.
• Ask why the Government has proposed completely removing the right of withdrawal in both RSE and RVE despite overwhelming support for it staying in the public consultation held prior to the Bill being introduced (some 88% of respondents opposed removing this right.)
• Schools should be required by law, as in England, to consult parents about the teaching of RSE and the RSE curriculum.
• The legal requirements that children should be protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to their religious and cultural background must be reinserted.
• The legal requirement that children should learn about the nature of marriage and its importance to family life must be reinserted.
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