EDUCATION – RELATIONSHIPS EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS – 7 March 2017
Dr Julian Lewis: Will my hon. Friend give way?
[The Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families (Edward Timpson): I will give way briefly, but then I want to try to make some progress.]
Dr Lewis: New clause 15 draws a distinction between relationships education provided for primary school children and relationships and sex education provided for secondary school children. Can the Minister confirm that that does not mean that sex education will be smuggled into primary schools under the label “relationships education”?
[Edward Timpson: A clear distinction is drawn by the very name of each of those subjects. The new clause makes plain that sex education will not be a statutory part of primary school teaching. Of course, if primary schools choose to teach sex education in an age-appropriate way, as they can now, they will be able to do so, but the right to withdraw from that will still apply, as it does in secondary schools.]
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Dr Lewis: I am sure that almost all of us agree that sex education in secondary schools is a good thing, particularly as parents will still be guaranteed the right to withdraw their children. What one is concerned about is that parents will not have the right to withdraw their children from relationship education in primary school. What is there to prevent sex education aspects from being smuggled in under that label?
[Mrs Maria Miller: I urge my right hon. Friend to talk to some of the teachers in his constituency who are already touching on issues of sex education in primary schools, because it is possible to do that in an age-appropriate manner. There is nothing in this Bill that would concern parents about further sex education being taught in primary schools – quite the contrary. According to research, three quarters of all parents, if not a little more than that, welcome these measures. Perhaps it is because they understand the safeguarding issues that can be very well covered by relationship education, even at an early age. I am talking about issues around consent in particular. I hope that my right hon. Friend can support these measures, because they are important not only for the future development of our children, but for keeping them safe and for giving them the ability to call out for help if and when they need it.]