Welsh parents and supporters have lost the first step of their fight against the Welsh government’s proposals to prohibit them from taking their children out of state-school sex education classes.
In a heated debate in the Welsh Parliament, during which Christian Senedd Member Darren Millar put up a robust defence of parents’ rights, members of the Senedd voted 41-10 in favour of the new rules.
According to advocacy organisation CARE, the new rules will ‘fundamentally change the roles of parents and the state in respect to education in Wales’.
CARE called the vote to approve the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill at Stage 1 a ‘significant blow’ and warned that, if the bill passes its remaining stages unchanged, sex education lessons will be replaced by a new mandatory subject called relationships and sexuality education (RSE) for children aged three-16.
Religious education will be replaced by a new mandatory subject called religion, values, and ethics (RVE). Being mandatory, if these changes become enshrined in law, CARE says, any protection from teaching and materials which are inappropriate in regards to their religious and cultural background also disappears.
For both subjects, the right of parents to withdraw their children will be removed entirely, something which Mr Millar’s speech to the Senedd highlighted as a fundamental freedom for parents.
He said, ‘Our education system in Wales is based on the principle that parents, not the state, are the primary educators of their children, and that schools look after children, not on their own terms, but in loco parentis, in the place of parents and with parental permission.
‘It’s in recognition of this very important principle that parents have long enjoyed the right to withdraw their children from the two subjects that engage questions of families’ world views, namely sex education and religious education.’
Pointing to the Human Rights Act, Mr Millar added, ‘It is vital that in a free society parents should be allowed a very large degree of autonomy in the way that they discharge their parental responsibilities to educate and raise their children’.
The legislation has moved to Stage 2 and is progressing through the Welsh Parliament.