Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 24th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench 5:30 pm, 24th April 2019

My Lords, I want to say how much I welcome the new guidance and regulations. In fact, the drafting of the guidance is brilliant; I compliment whoever drafted such nuanced and sensitive guidance for schools.

My main fear is that teachers will need protection. As the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, some of the objections to these regulations are so blinkered and bigoted that one fears very much for the children and the teachers who may be subjected to this sort of unfortunate propaganda. In fact, the children in the care of such people may be the ones most at risk of female genital mutilation and abuse. For their sakes, as well as everybody else’s, the facts must be taught.

At my girls’ public school, the chapters in the biology textbook on the reproductive habits of the frog—the frog, my Lords—were removed in case we got the wrong idea. This did not hold me back until I became the chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, when this gap in my knowledge caused some concern, at least temporarily. However, I managed to catch up.

The new regulations are welcome because they say that misogyny and homophobia must not be tolerated. They are not saying that any particular way of life must be promoted or forced on children—far from it. In fact, as I read it, the guidance strongly supports marriage and parental guidance. Parents should not fear because, if they have a different viewpoint to whatever is taught in school, they can point out to their children at home that they do not approve of it. However, that does not mean that the existence of different lifestyles and sexualities should not be taught in school. Indeed, children will probably get something far worse from watching things online or from their classmates than they will ever be taught at school. It is a matter of regret that primary and secondary schoolchildren could be withdrawn from sex education. The ones who are withdrawn will probably get a much worse representation of what is going on when they ask their classmates what they have missed.

Put simply, I very much welcome the regulations. What steps can the Minister and his department take to protect teachers from ill-intentioned members of governing bodies and hostile parents, who might make the lives of those teachers—who are only doing their job—very difficult?