Family & Education

Guarded welcome for sex education plan


Orthodox Jewish schools have cautiously welcomed a government plan to introduce compulsory sex education in all English schools. 

Until now, sex and relationships education has been compulsory in state-aided secondary schools under local authority control but not in academies and free schools. This has now been extended and could come into effect as soon as September 2019.

Under the new guidelines, confirmed in a written statement from education secretary Justine Greening, sex education will be put on a “statutory footing” so “every child has access to age appropriate provision”.

Ms Greening said: “The statutory guidance for sex and relationships education was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated. It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyber-bullying, ‘sexting’ and staying safe online.”

Parents will continue to have the right to remove their children from lessons and faith schools will be allowed some flexibility.

Ms Greening added: “As now, faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith.”

Judith Nemeth, executive director of the National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (Najos), which represents more than 60 schools, welcomed the Government’s position. She said Najos had worked closely with the Government during the consultation and found some “excellent work already going on in schools in the realm of child protection and safeguarding”.  

The Government is proposing to introduce the new subject of “relationships education” in primary school and renaming the secondary school subject “relationships and sex education”, to emphasise the importance of healthy relationships. 

The amendments will continue to allow parents a right to withdraw children from sex education, and schools will be required to publish a clear statement of what will be taught, so parents can make informed decisions. 

Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, principal of the Yesodey Hatorah schools in Stamford Hill, said: “This is recognition that it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which is very important to us.

“Many parents in wider society have abdicated their responsibilities to the school. That is not the case of the Orthodox community where many parents still believe it is their responsibility as parents to guide and provide their children with relationship education.”

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