While Ireland’s own objective sex education bill makes its way through the Dáil, the UK has taken a huge step forward by making mandatory sex education in schools across the country. In a landmark move, the new teachings must include LGBT+ issues.
The Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, told the UK Parliament that sex and relationship education will include “LGBT content as a strong feature at age appropriate points”. He described it would “set out core content but allows flexibility for schools own pupils”. This flexibility could not be used by religious schools as an excuse to opt out.
“We’ve previously committed to parents having a right to withdraw their children from sex education, but not from relationships education, in either primary or secondary school,” Hinds said. “A right for parents to withdraw their child up to 18 years of age is no longer compatible with English case law nor with the European Convention on Human Rights. It’s also clear that allowing parents to withdraw their child up to age 16 would not allow the child to opt into sex education before the legal age of consent.”
Hinds finished, “I therefore propose to give parents the right to request their child be withdrawn from sex education… before the pupil reaches 16. At that point, if the child wishes to have sex education, the head teacher should ensure they receive it. This preserves the parental right, in most cases, but also balances it with the child’s right to opt into sex education once they are competent to do so.”
In Ireland, the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, has asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to review all aspects of sex and relationship education in primary and post-primary schools due to an outdated curriculum which was last updated in the 1990’s.
The moves faces opposition from Fianna Fáil. Their party’s spokesperson, Thomas Byrne, stated that a mandatory Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill would create changes to the “characteristic spirit of schools”.
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