Relationships and sex education in schools

Reform rabbis join other religious leaders in calling for inclusive relationships and sex education in schools in a letter to The Guardian.

We congratulate the government for ensuring – through the Children and Social Work Act 2017 – that relationships and sex education (RSE) will soon be taught in all schools in England. This is an important step in boosting the future health and safety of children and young people. We further note that the act mandates the education secretary to publish regulations and statutory guidance regarding schools’ provisions of these subjects.

But this is open-ended and undefined, with the danger that RSE remains at risk of being hijacked by those who wish to overlook topics such as accessing confidential sexual and reproductive healthcare services and contraception, as well as those who wish to limit pupils to what they consider to be religiously acceptable notions of gender and sexual orientation. Schools, including faith schools, should be able to reflect upon a reasonable range of religious and cultural perspectives. But it is essential that the RSE that schools provide is accurate, balanced and promotes an acceptance of diversity.

We therefore urge that new statutory guidance on schools’ teaching of RSE should require them to actively promote the acceptance of LGBT people and provide, for pupils of sufficient maturity, factual information about contraception and abortion. We believe making certain that RSE is inclusive and focuses on ensuring pupils are well informed should be paramount, so that efforts to ensure their long-term wellbeing and to tackle prejudice are not undermined.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education,Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Rev Canon Steve Chalke (Baptist), Founder and leader, Oasis Community Learning, Rev Canon Jane Fraser (C of E) Sex and relationships education specialist and manager of the sex education charity Bodysense, Jayne Ozanne General Synod member and LGBTI equality campaigner, Very Rev Jeffrey John (C of E) Dean of St Albans, Derek McAuley Chief officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches,Martin Pendergast (Roman Catholic) Chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, Rev Professor Michael J Reiss (C of E) Specialist adviser to the House of Commons education committee 2014/15 personal, social and health education inquiry, Rt Rev Alan Wilson Anglican bishop of Buckingham, Rev Richard Adfield (C of E), Ruby Almeida Chair of Quest (pastoral support for LGBT Catholics), Simon Barrow Director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, Rev Richard Bentley (C of E), Rev Janet Conway (URC), Rev Roger Cornish (URC), Rev Marie Dove (Methodist), Rev Joe Edwards (C of E), Benjamin Ellis Chair of the Jewish LGBTQI inclusivity group, KeshetUK, Dr Maria Exall (Roman Catholic) Chair of the Cutting Edge Consortium and TUC LGBT+ Committee, Rt Rev Michael Doe Preacher to Gray’s Inn; former Anglican bishop of Swindon, Rt Rev David Gillett Former Anglican bishop of Bolton, Rev Dr Ruth Gouldbourne Co-minister, Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, London, Cllr Martin Stears-Handscomb (Baptist) Co-chair of Accepting Evangelicals, Savitri Hensman (C of E) Equalities adviser in the care sector and writer on Christian social ethics and theology, Ruth Hilton Chair of the Jewish sexual health charity JAT, Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz Sinai Snagogue, Leeds, Fr David Ingledew (C of E) All Saints, Hove, Rabbi Margaret Jacobi Birmingham Synagogue, Rev Robert Jennings (URC) Minister at Glenorchy Church, Exmouth,Rev Richard Jones (CofE) Associate minister, Hereford Diocese, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner Senior rabbi to Reform Judaism, Rev Richard Kirker (CofE) LGBTI equality campaigner, Rev Dr Jan van der Lely (CofE) Chair of the Modern Church,Rev Stephen Lingwood (Unitarian) Minister of the Bank Street Unitarian Chapel, Bolton, Jeremy Marks Director of Courage UK, Rev Iain McDonald (URC), Rabbi David Mitchell West London Synagogue, Rev Tim Richards (URC) Mid Somerset Group, Rabbi Danny Rich Senior rabbi and chief executive, Liberal Judaism, Rev Professor Chris Rowland (C of E) Emeritus Dean Ireland’s professor of exegesis of holy scripture at the University of Oxford, Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue, Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky Menorah Synagogue, Manchester, Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby (CofE) Former Anglican bishop of Worcester, Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, Newcastle Reform Synagogue, Elaine Sommers (CofE) Co-Chair of Accepting Evangelicals,Rev Tim Stead (C of E) Vicar, Holy Trinity Headington, Oxford, Rev Stephen Terry (C of E) Rector of the parish of Aldrington, Hove, Rev Robert Thompson (C of E),Rev Keith Ward DD FBA (C of E) Regius professor of divinity emeritus, University of Oxford, Rev Clare Wilson (C of E), Rev Simon Wilson (C of E), Rev Dick Wolff (URC)Minister in Oxford.