The Accord Coalition, which campaigns for inclusive schooling, has welcomed Conservative leader David Cameron’s recent comments on the importance of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), and urged a corresponding change in the official Tory position on the Children, Schools and Families Bill.
This week Mr Cameron told the gay magazine, Attitude, that it is important to prevent a rise in homophobia in schools, including faith schools. by “having some good ground rules about the teaching of things like sex education”.
Last week, Mr Cameron said that although the style and content of sex and relationship education should not be dictated to schools, nevertheless: “We do need good sex and relationship education. That education should teach people about equality, that we treat people the same whether they are gay or straight, I think that it is really important that we embed that in the ethos of our education.”
However, Conservative amendments to the Children, Schools and Families Bill which is currently in the Commons would mean that schools would remain under no requirement to teach PSHE (Personal, social, health and economic education). The amendments would also allow parents to withdraw pupils of any age from SRE, denying them important knowledge and discussion with other pupils.
Speaking last week, Cameron also said: “Should we teach children about relationships? Yes we should. Should we teach them about the importance of equality, whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual? Yes we should. Should we teach them about civil partnerships being a way of same-sex couples showing commitment just as married couples show commitment? Yes we should.”
Yet Conservative amendments would strike from the bill the requirement that PSHE should “endeavour to promote equality”, “encourage the acceptance of diversity” and “emphasise the importance of both rights and responsibilities”.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition commented: “I couldn’t agree more with David Cameron’s view that Sex and Relationships Education is important and should teach about the importance of equality. It is therefore surprising that his party is currently supporting amendments that would leave the subject ill-defined, or even keep it off the National Curriculum altogether.”
Dr Romain continued: “We urge MPs of all parties — including Conservatives — to support Sex and Relationships Education as a way of preparing young people for the rights and responsibilities of adulthood.”
The Accord Coalition was launched in early September 2008 to bring together religious and non-religious organisations campaigning for an end to religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions. The coalition also campaigns for a fair and balanced RE curriculum and the removal of the requirement for compulsory collective worship but does not take a position for or against faith schools in principle.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association and the Christian think-tank Ekklesia are founder members of the Accord Coalition - which also includes Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist members and supporters.