A move to make Sex and Relationships Education compulsory for all schools is being contested by the strictly Orthodox community.
Labour MP Stella Creasy has proposed an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to strengthen SRE teaching. Although the amendment was defeated at committee stage last week, it is believed MPs will be allowed a second opportunity to discuss it.
Judith Nemeth, executive director of the National Assocation of Orthodox Jewish Schools (Najos), told MPs it would be “impossible” for schools represented by the organisation to comply with the proposals, if passed.
SRE is compulsory in state secondary schools, although not in academies, which are not bound by the national curriculum. Parents in any school have the right to remove children from SRE, except for the teaching of reproduction in biology classes.
But Ms Creasy has argued SRE is taught in “a patchy way” with only one in seven children receiving it. Most might have “negative impressions about what a good, positive and healthy relationship looks like”.
Citing the danger of internet pornography, she said the world was “different from the one that we grew up in”.
Under her amendment, councils would become responsible for ensuring SRE was taught in local schools
as part of safeguarding requirements.
Ms Creasy, who would include teaching about same-sex relationships within SRE, said “many of us are concerned about children who are same-sex-attracted in faith schools”.
Mrs Nemeth said this week, “if the amendment became law, unless there were clear guidelines for faith schools, it could make it more difficult to opt out, particularly as it would come under child protection.
“Many Orthodox Jewish families are successful in limiting access to the internet by following rabbinic guidance in this matter.
“The imposition of educating our pupils in matters that are not on their radar is a denial of our parent body’s right to choose what their children are exposed to.”
David Hersh, chairman of Tiferes, a girls’ high school in north-west London, wrote to MPs that “we are extremely troubled” by the amendment. “Although it might be appropriate in certain schools where problems might arise on a regular basis,” he said, “the Jewish Orthodox schools do not suffer from these issues, and bringing it to the fore, would in fact aggravate and increase the problems you are seeking to limit.”
The government has indicated it is preparing its own proposals on SRE.