Sex education in schools

Today I received an email which reads as follows:

As the UK’s new Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening is under increasing pressure to make Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) a statutory requirement in all secondary schools.

Parliament’s Women and Equality Commission recently released a report citing a reduction in sexual harassment and sexual violence as reasons for introducing compulsory SRE. Peers in the House of Lords have also called for compulsory SRE in an effort to tackle a rise in HIV levels.

While the elimination of sexual harassment and sexual violence, as well as reduction in the spread of STIs, is to be commended, to make SRE compulsory involves a dangerous overstepping of the state into the moral formation of our nation’s children – a task which belongs primarily to parents.

Sign this petition to the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, asking that she seeks alternative solutions to these problems – solutions that do not involve usurping the role and authority of parents.

SRE cannot be value neutral and, if this important parental task is taken over by the state, the state will be imparting a particular moral view about the nature and importance of sex (and marriage) to our nation’s children. Many parents do not share the moral view which will be imparted by compulsory SRE, parents who, for example, want their child to learn that sex should be reserved for marriage only.

Whether or not intended, the state will be engaging in a process of mass social engineering: a process of engineering our nation’s children to think about sex and relationships in a particular way which will be incompatible with the views of many parents from many different traditions.

Sign this petition to Justine Greening asking that she continue to respect the conscience and teaching authority of parents.

Parent’s, not the state, are the primary educators of their children.

Please sign this petition to Justine Greening asking,

  1. that SRE not be made compulsory;
  2. that alternative solutions to the problems mentioned are thoroughly investigated – solutions that do not involve the state usurping the authority of parents;
  3. that parents are encouraged to educate their own children in matters related to sex and relationships and, if necessary, are provided with the tools to enable them to do so;
  4. and that parents retain the right to remove their children from SRE if they choose. “


My apologies for quoting at length but I do so because of the many pertinent points made.

One of the areas of contention in today’s culture wars is to what extent should the state take over the traditional role of parents when it comes to impressing on children certain values? While arguably sex education, just like any other aspect of education, is about teaching helpful, facts and weighing them, rather than pushing a set of values that may be contrary to those held by the parents, it seems clear as far as the writers of the above email are concerned that in the move being suggested that consideration of “helpful facts” and impressing on children values that go against their parent’s wishes will unavoidably go hand in hand.

I suspect for many parents, maybe the vast majority, this is not something they bother much about, but for some this is an important matter that set alarm bells ringing. I know parents who home school their children because of this very fear. The issue of children’s education is something that particularly interests and concerns me. While I do understand the concerns that cause some to call upon government to make SRE a compulsory subject in schools, I understand (and share the concerns) of parents who feel undermined when the school curriculum is adjusted to meet the demands of special interest groups they don’t subscribe to.

It is likely this is already happening in other areas of the curriculum. My own view is that whenever something contentious like sex education is taught that great care is taken that what is taught is appropriate and is not advocating practices that go against what parents believe to be right. Caution is also needed when using schools and the education system to deal with perceived ills in society. I raise these matters here because a debate is needed and parents whose views go against the secular status quo that assumes sex outside of marriage is the norm, should be made aware. Education is not about indoctrination and it can not be value free.


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