Health Education: Sex

Education written question – answered on 5th April 2011.

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Photo of Sir David Amess Sir David Amess Conservative, Southend West

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what requests for information relating to (a) abortion and (b) sex and relationships education were made to his Department and its predecessor under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in each year since 2009; whether each request was (i) agreed to and (ii) refused; if he will place in the Library a copy of the information provided in response to each request; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather The Minister of State, Department for Education

All FOI requests for abortion data are responded to by the Department of Health.

There have been five FOI requests for information relating specifically to sex and relationships education (SRE) and a further case that covered both SRE and religious education/collective worship. A summary of each request and its outcome is provided as follows. Copies of the full replies and any associated documents that were provided to the correspondent, will be placed in the House of Commons Library.

(1) On 6 November 2009, Mr Norman Wells requested release of all correspondence, notes of meetings, discussion papers, file notes and all other documents in relation to discussions about the age up to which parents should be able to withdraw their children from sex and relationship education lessons.

A reply to Mr Wells on 30 November 2009 confirmed that the requested information was being withheld under section 35(1)(a) and section 42 of the FOI Act 2000.

(2) On 19 January 2010, Mr G. E. Hester requested copies of minutes and any notes, including handwritten notes, taken at any meetings or gatherings where the Catholic Education Service, or any of its agents, including Ms Oona Stannard and Bishop McMahon, met with any civil servant or Government Minister in the calendar year 2009 on the subject of sex education or PSHE in schools; and any letters, e-mails or other communications sent by the same parties on the same subject in the calendar year 2009.

A reply to Mr Hester on 5 March 2010 explained that aspects of the information he had requested had been partially withheld under section 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act 2000.

(3) On 9 April 2010, Mr Carl Gardner requested disclosure of all legal advice provided in 2009 and 2010 by DCSF or other Government lawyers, including Parliamentary Counsel, or by outside counsel instructed by Government lawyers, on the questions (a) whether any amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill to give parents the right to withdraw their children from 'PSHE' until the age of 16 would or would not be incompatible with convention rights and (b) on the question whether Ministers had any choice but to remove those provisions from the Bill; disclose whether or not such legal advice was or was not given, by whom it was given, and when, or disclosure of the fact that legal advice was given if we believe naming individuals would prejudice individual privacy.

A reply to Mr Gardner on 10 May 2010 confirmed that this information had been withheld under section 35(1)(a), section 40(2), and section 42 of the FOI Act 2000.

(4) On 8 April 2010, Ms Dimmock from the Children's Right Alliance for England (CRAE) requested a copy of the legal advice provided to the (then) Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) concerning the compliance of the Children, Schools and Families Bill with the European convention on human rights (ECHR), specifically with regard to the age at which parents can withdraw their children from sex and relationships education.

A reply to Ms Dimmock on 10 May 2010 confirmed that this information had been withheld under section 35(1)(a), section 40(2), and section 42 of the FOI Act 2000

(5) Following the decision at point (1), Mr Norman Wells was advised by the Information Commissioner that, due to the passage of time, it might be relevant to make a second request for all correspondence, notes of meetings, discussion papers, file notes and all other documents in relation to discussions about the age up to which parents should be able to withdraw their children from sex and relationships education, prior to 6 May 2010. This subsequent request was made on 1 November 2010.

A reply to Mr Wells on 15 December 2010 reiterated that this information was being withheld under section 35(1)(a) and section 42 of the FOI Act 2000.

(6) On 24 May 2010, Mr Chilton asked whether any assessments had been made about the compatibility of: section 71 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998; and section 405 of the Education Act 1996, on a range of articles and conventions.

A reply containing the information requested was provided on 15 June 2010.

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