Anti-LGBTQ+ parents lose legal bid against inclusive education in Wales: ‘A victory for children’

A photo of the Welsh Flag with added rainbow Pride colours

A legal challenge mounted by parents to ban compulsory lessons in relationships and sexuality education (RSE) in Wales has failed in what has been called a “victory for children’s rights”.  

The case was brought by parents from a campaign group called PCP Wales, which claims to campaign for child protection and safeguarding, while promoting the “importance of family, community and inclusion”.

PCP Wales argued that the removal of right to withdraw children from mandatory, LGBTQ-inclusive RSE lessons breached their common law and human rights. 

They said this was because it “promotes sexual lifestyles, gender theory and new sexualities” and meant they wouldn’t be able to stop their children receiving “education on religious or philosophical matters of which they disapprove”.

The High Court ruled on Thursday (22 December) that the mandatory learning in RSE is lawful. 

LGBT-inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) became a statutory subject in Wales this year. (Envato)

In the lessons themes including relationships, sex, gender, body image and sexual health are covered, with a requirement that children develop an “awareness and understanding” of different identities.

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Justice Steyn ruled that the content of the RSE code and guidance is consistent with the requirement to ensure the teaching is “conveyed in an objective critical and pluralistic manner, and does not breach the prohibition on indoctrination”.

Judge finds inaccuracies in claimant’s allegations

Steyn also found that the claimants’ allegations about the curriculum were inaccurate. 

“For example, some of the claimants have expressed concerns about the RSE curriculum based on their belief that it ‘reflects a body of educational advocacy known as Comprehensive Sexuality Education (‘CSE’) which originated in the United States’,” the judge said.

“It is clear that neither the [education] code nor the guidance seek to encourage teaching which reflects the claimants’ understanding of CSE. Nor do those texts promote libertarianism or the sexualisation of children.”

Houses in Wattsville, a Village in the Gwent valleys decorated their houses with rainbow flags
Houses in Wattsville, a Village in the Gwent valleys decorated their houses with rainbow flags to support the NHS, workers over the pandemic. (Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

Wales Humanists coordinator, Kathy Riddick, called the court’s decision a “victory for the Welsh Government” and “a victory for children’s rights”.

“This challenge was based on harmful misinformation about the new curriculum and a misunderstanding of human rights law,” Riddick said.

“The Court has agreed that the RSE Code means the subject will be taught in an objective, critical and pluralistic way. It is therefore entirely consistent with the best evidence which says high-quality, age-appropriate RSE is essential to keep children healthy, happy, and safe.”

‘The days of traditional sex education are long gone’

Earlier this year, another group of parents opposed to the RSE curriculum being taught in primary schools in Wales lost their legal battle to have it scrapped. 

The lessons became a statutory subject this year, with the curriculum including a heavy emphasis on “forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships, aiming to progress beyond teachings on basic biology.” 

Welsh education secretary Kirsty Williams, a Liberal Democrat, said: “The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it.

“Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality. Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.”

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