Church of England backs mandatory sex ed, but warns it must be ‘appropriate’ for faith schools

The Church of England has tentatively backed government plans to make sex and relationship education (SRE) mandatory in all schools, but warned it must be “appropriate”.

Education Secretary Justine Greening announced last week that she would act to make SRE mandatory in all schools, after pressure on the issue from sexual health and children’s campaign groups.

She announced plans “to put Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing, so every child has access to age appropriate provision, in a consistent way”.

The initial plans did not include a commitment to LGBT-inclusivity, but LGBT charity Stonewall says it will be “working with the Government to ensure [LGBT issues] are reflected in updated guidance for schools”.

In a official response to the plans, the Church of England broadly backed plans to equip children for the changing world.

They warned: “[Some Christians] will argue that school is not the right place to teach such matters… we are clear that any such legislative change should come with suitable safeguards to ensure that parents are consulted and retain the right to withdraw their children and that the education is be framed in a way which is appropriate to the ethos and character of the school.

“But the Church of England is, collectively, the biggest single source of education in the country, with around a million children learning in its schools. We know from everyday experience of the pressing need to equip children for the world in which they are growing up.”

The response, penned by Bishop of Ely Rt Revd Stephen Conway, added: “It is becoming increasingly clear that what might have held in previous eras is no longer the most effective way of keeping our children safe and preparing them for life in the world in which they live.

“In an age when even primary school children are becoming exposed to online pornography – often by accident – and when practices such as ‘sexting’ are becoming commonplace at a younger and younger age, we cannot simply advocate an approach like the three monkeys coverings their eyes, ears and mouths, vowing to see, hear or speak no evil.”

The Church of England recently vowed to go back to the drawing board on LGBT issues, after a report affirming anti-gay marriage stances was rejected.