The Scottish Government has just produced its awaited report on “Conduct of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education in Schools”. There are of course negative aspects to it but in general I would suggest that the Free Church should welcome and support a document which could be a good basis for a healthy and positive sex education policy. The key of course is not in the fine words but what those words actually mean and how they are implemented. Let us look first of all at what we can welcome in the report and the implication for Christian parents, carers and teachers.
1. We wholeheartedly welcome the purpose stated at the head of the report – “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people receive high quality relationships, sexual health and parenthood education (RSHP) in order to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights as they grow up. We are committed to working with children and young people along with parents, carers and staff to make this a reality for schools in Scotland in order to create a more positive culture around relationships, sexual health and parenthood in Scotland.”
2. We welcome the fact that sex education is to be seen in the light of wider relationships and that parents are seen as key “that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values”. We warmly welcome the fact that parents should be consulted – “It is good practice for schools to regularly seek the views of parents and carers about key aspects of the curriculum, such as RSHP education. It should be standard practice for schools to consult with parents and carers when they are developing or reviewing their programme of RSHP education. All parents and carers should be given the opportunity in advance to view key teaching materials and to ask questions about any aspect of the programme”. This means that the recreational casual view of sex CANNOT not be taught in Scottish schools.
3. We welcome the recognition that a stable family life is important for a child’s development. We welcome the emphasis on the need for a secure and stable family for bringing up children. “Children and young people should be encouraged to consider and appreciate the importance of parental responsibility and family relationships in planning for and bringing up children and in offering them security, stability, happiness and love.”
4. We welcome the aim to protect children from all forms of abuse including sexual. We also welcome the recognition that child sexual exploitation is seen as a form of sexual abuse. All that can be done to prevent children from being exploited is to be encouraged. A cheap view of sex as recreational and the commercialisation of sex are factors that need to be kept in mind.
5. We welcome the recognition that sexual relationships and sexuality are also tied in with spirituality. We welcome the commitment to ensure that children have access to information and material from a wide variety of sources in order to promote their spiritual and moral wellbeing and physical and mental health. We would like all children to be able to have access to sex health material that approaches the subject from a Christian perspective. Schools are thus encouraged to use the excellent material by CARE and other Christian groups which give a holistic biblical perspective. Schools should not just give material from one ideology (ie. Stonewall).
6. We welcome section 28 – “No school, or individual teacher, is under a duty to support, promote or endorse one type of relationship over another”. We do not object to the guidance that “discussions about relationships should acknowledge that same sex couples can now marry as a result of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland)” That is simply a fact and as the guidance states “Teaching should be based on facts and should enable pupils to develop an understanding of how the law applies to different relationships.” However this does not mean that a teacher or pupil is obliged to promote or agree with SSM. Teachers can teach the facts but not their own personal opinions. Pupils are entitled to have different views.
7. We welcome the emphasis on bullying and we agree that homophobic bullying is as important and serious as any other form of bullying. However we question why this form of bullying is the only example raised. Given that the homosexual community is only 1-2 per cent of the population we wonder why other forms of bullying are not equally stressed. The disabled, the religious and people of different cultures and skin cultures are just as likely to be bullied. Government should not conduct policy on the basis of well-funded lobbying groups who seek to magnify a problem in order to justify their own existence and advance their own particular agenda.
8. We welcome the concern about online pornography and the recognition that this is linked with bullying.
9. We also welcome the commitment to retain denominational schools. However we would remind the government that non-denominational schools are not non-Christian and we would like to see the Christian ethos of Scotland’s state schools retained or returned. It is after all the best way to ensure the total well being of our children. Christian parents need to constantly remind schools of the schools Christian ethos and of the right the parents have to have their children educated according to their religious beliefs.
10. We note with interest that “inputs from external partners should respect and complement the values and belief system of the school;’ (p.11). Whilst we welcome the acknowledgement that every school has a value and belief system we would like to know what that value and belief system is based on.
Overall the report is to be welcomed. However there are some concerns and inconsistencies. How does one present sex education in a gender neutral way? And why are the guidelines so casual about underage sex? The assumption in the report seems to be that there is an obvious universal moral code that reflects the values of the whole community. This assumption is dangerous. We do not want to assume that the liberal elites who govern our culture will just hand us down their homespun 1960’s morality. As the report acknowledges, good teaching about sexual health and relationships requires a holistic approach based upon a coherent value and belief system. Scotland’s education system has had a Christian value and belief. For the sexual, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well being of Scotland’s children, we would urge that that value and belief system be retained or restored.
The original article can be read here – http://freechurch.org/news/new-scottish-government-guidelines-on-sex-education-a-christian-perspective