My Lords, I interject at this point simply because a lot has been spoken about the theory of relationships education, and people coming to terms with who they are and understanding the modern world. I was one of those 15 year-olds who looked over the edge and contemplated suicide. Stories about the real world are far more important than theory.
I was in a school that was meant to be a safe place— because not all families, households or communities are safe. School is meant to be the safe place that gives a child the right to feel safe, to explore and to understand the world and community they are part of. Communities are diverse. The noble Lord, Lord McCrea, referred to respecting the family. Families are very diverse. There are same-sex families and single-parent families. There is no such thing as “a family”; there are families. Therefore, schools and relationships have to expose young people to the world they will have to negotiate. I looked over the edge and nearly committed suicide because I and many others did not have that safe space. It was not safe for teachers to explore the differences. There was a monoculture about what relationships were about.
If I had grown up with the regulations that the Government will, I hope, enact, some of the issues that I and many others were dealing with would have been explored—not just sexuality but many different issues. I would have felt normal and safe. I would have understood that my relationship was equal and that I was a fellow human being. Yes, there were going to be issues, but I was equal. That is what this is about: giving children, no matter who they are, the right to negotiate the world safely and with confidence, so that they do not go, particularly now, to the internet to be mistaught, have their differences reinforced and possibly contemplate suicide even more.
There are balances to be struck, which is why this is complex—but no parent has the right to stop their child being ready to explore and navigate the world. They have the right to give them their views and to explain them, but school also has the right to give an opposing view—not to indoctrinate, but objectively to say, “This is the bigger picture. This is the world that you inherit”. Parents’ views are important, but so are other relationships, other views and other ways in which the world happens.
So I welcome these regulations because they are the correct balance. They balance the right of parents and of religion, but they also balance the right of the individual child to be taught the skills and the knowledge they need to go and navigate the world. I suggest that, if these regulations go forward, fewer young people will look over the edge like I did at the age of 15. They will feel normal, feel that their relationships are valued and feel confident enough to navigate the world, meet their full potential, and understand that the world is complex, that people are different and that equality is important.