Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has welcomed the government’s new policy on relationships and sex education which is due to come into force in September 2020.
A spokesman for his office said Rabbi Mirvis had “long argued that there need not be any contradiction between preparing our children for life in modern Britain and ensuring that they are totally immersed in Torah values throughout their education”.
In September last year, Rabbi Mirvis published his own guidance for Orthodox schools under his authority on their duty of care towards LGBTQ pupils.
The government, his spokesman said, had “made clear that these RSE regulations are adaptable according to the age and religious background of the pupils. This is an approach which provides an appropriate accommodation for all of our schools and which is welcome.”
However, Charedi groups are still grappling with the implications of the Department for Education’s latest guidance on what schools should teach.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds, presenting the policy in parliament, was clear on Monday that by the end of their schooling, pupils should have covered LGBTQ issues.
“We trust teachers and headteachers to make the decision about when to do that,” he said, “but not whether to do it.”
According to the Charedi education group Chinuch UK, secondary schools will have the freedom to teach about LGBTQ issues as part of sex education rather than relationships education.
The distinction would be significant because parents retain the right to withdraw children from sex education until the age of 15 - and pupils themselves have that right after that age - but there is no right of withdrawal from relationships education.
Chinuch UK says, on the basis of briefings from DfE officials, that sex education could be provided by a third party outside the school.