EDUCATION – SEX EDUCATION AND PARENTAL RIGHTS – 25 February 2019
Dr Julian Lewis: I am afraid that the Secretary of State did not quite answer the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). I agree with most of this, but I remember Edward Timpson categorically saying that parents would have the right to withdraw their children if they wanted to. The Secretary of State has made a very strong case for the three terms before the age of 16 exception, but he keeps adding the words, “unless there are exceptional circumstances”. Why have those words been added? In what circumstances would a headteacher overrule a parent? Is not the likely effect of this going to be that in some cases, instead of children getting necessary sex education in schools, more parents are going to keep their children out of school?
[The Secretary of State for Education (Damian Hinds): We do not want parents to keep their children out of school. I hope I can reassure my right hon. Friend that the intention is to say that the long-standing right to withdraw children from sex education does not apply to relationships education or the subject of human reproduction in the science curriculum, but that there is that right to request when it comes to sex education. The request is put to the headteacher, and the guidance that we issue to headteachers clearly says that the headteacher should comply with that request up to three terms before the child reaches the age of 16. Why three terms before the age of 16? Because 16 is the age of consent, so the child should be able – if they wish – to have some sex education for at least a term before they reach that age.]