Parents win judicial review of Welsh sex education reform

PARENTS campaigning against mandatory relationship and sex education (RSE) reforms in Welsh schools have won a judicial review.

Group Public Child Protection Wales says children as young as three will learn about ‘sensitive and arguably inappropriate topics’, including gender ideology, and parents are being disenfranchised by being denied the right to withdraw their child from sex education.

However, the Welsh Government said these claims were “incorrect” and that all lessons would be age appropriate.

The group – which represents more than 5,000 parents and family members – filed documents with the High Court and on May 27 won a judicial review of the Welsh government’s rollout of reforms.

In his decision, Justice Turner said: “The issues raised on behalf of the plaintiffs involve the consideration of complex constitutional issues with potentially far-reaching consequences for parents and children.

“The defendants’ response, while not without force, is not so obviously determinative of the denial of leave.”

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Kim Isherwood said: “After years of being ignored, we are delighted that the judge has recognized the seriousness of the proposed changes, the removal of centuries-old parental rights and, that the CSR program, as it stands, could have significant consequences on the mental and physical health of children.

“In one fell swoop, the government has severed the vital partnership between parents and schools creating, for the first time, a political divide between us.

“Children should not be used for political ideological experiments in relation to identity and sexuality.

“It amounts to institutionalized abuse, demanded by teachers who choose a vocation to teach each child as an individual, with respect and dignity, and not to impose any ideology on them.

“School is a place to learn vital biology, how to develop relationships – with both genders – and develop respect.

“But, as parents, we think what’s happening here is child sexualization, not child rearing. This is a social engineering experiment that needs to be stopped.

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Activists stress that they are not against safeguarding or teaching age-appropriate biology, and added that they fully support minority rights to well-being and freedom of choice.

The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 requires that the CSR taught in the new curriculum be developmentally appropriate for learners.

Welsh government Curriculum for Wales – Relationship and Sexuality Education Code said three-year-olds would learn to act with kindness, empathy and compassion towards others; the use of precise terminology for body parts; and recognize trusted adults who can help them when they feel unhappy or in danger.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘Learners will only learn subjects appropriate to their age and development.

“At a younger age, for example, children will learn to treat each other with kindness and empathy. As they get older, they will gain an understanding of topics such as online safety, consent and sexual health – all of which will be handled sensitively.

“It’s about ensuring the best outcomes for all learners and their communities: to protect them and keep them safe.

“Evidence shows that CSR can, for example, help learners understand and participate in healthy relationships of all kinds; reduce all forms of bullying and help learners recognize and seek help for abusive or unhealthy relationships.

“Since 2018, the CSR code has been subject to full and wide consultation and the appropriate legislative procedure at the Senedd.

“These reforms have been welcomed by a number of respected organisations, including the NSPCC, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Welsh Women’s Aid.”

The case will be heard in the High Court in Cardiff before September – when the reforms are due to be introduced.