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.

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Photo of Baroness Meyer Baroness Meyer Conservative 5:30 pm, 24th April 2019

My Lords, I apologise for arriving a bit late. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, I think that a lot of things in the regulations are really good. I am a bit more conservative; I fear that I consider sex education something that is rather more private. However, it is necessary. I started life in a Catholic school. In those days, of course, we were taught nothing. Then, at the age of 12, I arrived at the French lycée, where I had to face boys and had no idea how to behave.

Anyway, that is the past and today I want only to be sure of one thing and to ask two questions. First, can the Government assure this House that the regulations are fully consistent with the obligations to parents’ rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and the Human Rights Act 1998? I ask this question in particular: is it consistent to downgrade parents’ current right to choose whether to enrol their children in sex education classes? Is it right to demote that right to a right to request the withdrawal of their children from such classes?

Further, on another subject, in her report Preventing Child Sexual Abuse, the Children’s Commissioner noted that 90% of primary schools still use Stranger Danger as a PSHE subject. Action against Abduction, the charity I founded and of which I remain president—I hereby declare my interest—has shown that Stranger Danger is out of date and ineffective in keeping children safe. One of the main reasons for that is that, obviously, most predators, especially sexual predators, are family members or friends of the family, not strangers. The charity that I founded came up with a new, much more effective, initiative, Clever Never Goes, which means that children learn how to behave when they feel that they are in an uncomfortable position. The regulations note that children can now go and tell their teachers that they were in an uncomfortable situation. Five hundred schools have already adopted our programme. Will the Government refer to Clever Never Goes in the guidance so that schools can give children the best advice on how to stay safe from sexual predators?