Children, Schools and Families Bill
The second reading of the Children, Schools and Families Bill was hotly debated in the House of Commons in January, not least because of contentious areas such as faith schools, home-schooling and compulsory sex education for primary-school age children.
In a debate which lasted for hours, the vote to push the bill through managed to get a comfortable majority of 287, compared with 206 ‘no’ votes.
The provisions of the bill are supposedly in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, but leading organisations, Christian and secular, lobbied ministers to present their arguments for better protection for parents and children.
Responses from bodies such as the Countryside Alliance and pro-life charity Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), and from former secretary of state for education and employment David Blunkett MP, were presented in a debate that started at 2.30pm and went on well into the night.
The bill’s section 403 says that state and maintained schools and academies that teach personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) must also teach sex and relationships education, including the presentation of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice equal to that of heterosexual relationships. This is regardless of whether or not the school is a Christian institution.
John Smeaton, SPUC director, commented: ‘The Bill seeks to force schools to prime children for adolescent sex – a clear example of pursuing ideology despite the evidence. The teenage pregnancy policies pursued over the past 10 years have encouraged escalating rates of sexual diseases, the further sexualisation of culture, and continuing high abortion rates among teenagers’.
However, there has been a new provision, stating: ‘If the parent of a pupil under the age of 15 in attendance at the school requests that the pupil be partly excused from receiving sex and relationships education at the school, the pupil shall be excused accordingly until the request is withdrawn or the pupil attains the age of 15’.
Home-schooling representatives pressed for fairer wording and provisions for home-schooling parents, who under the wording of the first reading in April last year were practically accused of providing a cover for child abuse. The bill has moved to a Public Bill Committee stage, which should be held on 4 February.