The British parliament dropped clauses in an education bill that would have made it mandatory for Catholic schools to provide, among other things, “non-judgmental” information about abortion and contraception to students as part of a new sex education initiative.
The Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) initiative would have also have been required for children as young as five and would have forbidden parents from removing their children from sex education classes once they turned fifteen.
SRE was a part of the Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) measure, which will be dropped when the House of Lords passes the larger Children, Schools and Family Bill on April 8, according to numerous news reports.
The Telegraph reported on Wednesday that Conservatives within the House of Lords called the removal of PSHE from the larger bill a victory for common sense. If the bill had passed, conservatives said teachers in England would have been “swamped” with red tape.
Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, who heavily backed the PSHE legislation, expressed his disappointment in a letter to Michael Gove on April 7. Gove serves as the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and in that capacity develops Conservative legislative proposals.
“This is a very significant set back,” Balls wrote, “which will deny many young people proper and balanced sex and relationships education.”
John Smeaton, director for the U.K.-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) countered Ball's sentiment and blogged on Wednesday that the removal of SRE and PSHE regulations was a “huge pro-life victory.”
Opposition to the sex-ed legislation by Catholics throughout the England was made evident by a letter published in the Sunday Telegraph on March 28 which was signed by 640 concerned citizens, including several Catholic bishops and 300 clergy from various denominations denouncing the bill. Smeaton reprinted the letter, which was initiated by Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust, on his SPUC blog.
SRE and PSHE regulations had surprisingly garnered the support of the local Catholic Education Service (CES) who reportedly lobbied extensively to get the legislation passed.
When CES was contacted by CNA for a response to concerns that Catholic schools would be required to present opposing beliefs on abortion and homosexuality, staffers referred to an amendment to the SRE bill that said religious schools would be allowed to teach the material within a Catholic ethos.
But Smeaton read the support he garnered against the bills in a different light. “The massive support the letter has received from leading Catholics is yet further proof of just how out of touch the Catholic Education Service (CES) is with the concerns of the Catholics community in England and Wales,” he remarked.