Welsh Parents are set to lose the right to withdraw their children from Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) after the Welsh Government announced plans to make RSE compulsory for all school students aged 3-16.
The Welsh Government conducted two consultations in 2019 on this issue, and in both instances the response from the Welsh public was overwhelmingly clear. In the first consultation, ‘Our National Mission: A Transformational Curriculum’, 88.7% of respondents agreed that the right to withdraw from RE and RSE should be retained.[i]
The Welsh Government ignored these views, moving ahead with a second consultation on proposals to remove the right to withdraw. The results announced this week found that the most common response at 60% was negative, disagreeing with the proposals, with only 19% of responses positively agreeing with them.[ii]
Opposition to proposals
The summary of the consultation responses made clear the wide ranging opposition to the proposals. One significant area of concern amongst parents was of the erosion of their rights: ‘From this perspective, parents and carers felt as though they have a primary role to play in the moral, social and spiritual development of their children. Some respondents felt that the proposals, specifically the opportunity to opt out of certain provision, could potentially undermine or weaken this role.”[iii]
A number of respondents in the education community also expressed reservations, maintaining that the removal of the opt-out could ‘adversely impact upon the positive relationships between schools, teachers, parents and carers.’[iv]
Furthermore, there were concerns raised that the removal of the opt-out could in fact lead some parents to withdraw their children from schooling entirely, opting instead to educate their children at home.
Commenting, CARE’s Family Policy Officer Jonathan Williams said:
“CARE believes that parents’ right to withdraw children from relationships and sexuality education must be retained. Parents are the primary educators of their children on these matters and it is up to them to decide how and when their children are taught these subjects.
“We are concerned that this proposal would create and exacerbate distrust between schools and parents. Taking away the right to withdraw and undermining an important aspect of parental responsibility has the serious potential to increase tensions or even create them where none existed before.
“The Welsh Government is attempting to bring in this proposal under the disingenuous argument that it will allow all students ‘access’ to the RSE curriculum. In fact, all students already have access to the RSE curriculum, rather this proposal seems to be about forcing students into a subject against their parents’ wishes.
“It is clear from the responses to the consultation that the Welsh Government has had the opportunity to listen to the Welsh public on this issue, it is also clear that they have chosen to entirely dismiss the concerns of Welsh parents. The Welsh Government have moved to an extremist position, relegating parents from the educational arena and saying to them that the state, not parents, knows what’s best for children.”