Further ideas for your consultation response

Here are some suggestions of points to include in your response to the RSE consultation. It will be helpful if you draw on your own experiences and expertise in your responses. While there are lots of points to make, it’s most important that you submit something rather than missing the deadline. It’s very important to take part in this: it could be our only chance to influence policy.

Points to consider including

  • The document repeatedly confuses and conflates ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. They are not synonyms. Clarity on the definitions of these terms is needed. If you don’t recognise sex, you can’t address sexism. There are inherent tensions and contradictions in the way these facts are represented in the document. Stereotyping and restrictive gender roles are barriers to be overcome by challenging the stereotypes and showing them to be artificial, not by telling children who are gender non-conforming or same sex attracted that they are ‘born in the wrong body’ and are actually the opposite sex. This is not only regressive but both sexist and homophobic.
  • It’s welcome that the document recognises that “the law already requires that RSE must be objective, critical and pluralistic” (p8) in its content and manner for teaching. However, materials and resources endorsed by Welsh Government and used by existing ‘partner organisations’ do not meet that standard. They do not “teach RSE in a neutral, factual way”. There needs to be more detail in the Guidance and Code which ensures that schools and other settings know how to ensure that teaching meets the legal standard.
  • The use of the term ‘developmentally appropriate’ sounds reassuring, but making that assessment is hard enough in relation to a single child. When designing a curriculum for an entire class or year group the potential for poor assessment of what is developmentally appropriate is enormous. Additional guidance is needed.
  • The reminder that schools are required to comply with the relevant requirements of the Equality Act 2010, yet misinformation regarding the protections and provisions of that act are widespread. Resources such as AGENDA and others used by organisations currently offering to support schools with delivery of the RSE Curriculum actively promote an erroneous interpretation of what the legislation says. Clearer guidance from Welsh Government is needed so that schools are left in no doubt.
  • A shift of focus from factual information, including on sexual orientation, to prioritising identity and sexuality in sex and relationship education, is in danger of creating a culture that blurs boundaries, compromises safeguarding and may lead to poor self-esteem and well-being as well as unhealthy relationships.
  • There are two sexes and three sexual orientations. Whatever a child or young person’s personality, interests or preferred way of dressing or self-expression, the message should be that they are fine as they are. Similarly, same-sex attraction should be normalised. The intense focus on feelings and celebrating diversity, may be an attempt to redress the balance between the majority sexual orientation and historically marginalised groups. However, there is a danger that it is misguided because it unnecessarily draws attention to difference, highlighting divisions and tribalism. It can be perceived as favouring some qualities, making some people appear more special and deserving of attention than others. Creating such an environment may paradoxically make it more likely for marginalised groups to be singled out or for children to question themselves at a stage when they are still developing and growing.
  • Any teaching regarding pornography should be from a critical viewpoint, not a celebration, since it is a manifestation of violence against women – as is prostitution. How can young lesbians find positive role models when popular culture views it as no more than a porn category: performative ‘lesbianism’ for male audiences? How can young straight girls go out into the world of dating these days when they and their male peers are shown a version of sexuality in which women are battered, bruised and abused?
  • Although RSE will be mandatory there is a lack of specific information for schools on what partner organisations or resources should or should not cover in delivery. If something is compulsory it’s reasonable that children and parents know what’s being taught and that it won’t be ideologically loaded.
  • It is difficult for schools to navigate which of the plethora of innovative new resources are safe, accurate and meet the requirements of the guidance and code. Before resources are used in Welsh schools and other settings there should be a clear process of review and assessment to ensure that they are legal, honest and truthful as well as consistent with being a ‘positive and protective’ part of the new curriculum.
  • The Glossary in Annexe 1 should be removed or amended significantly to include only accurate definitions and not ideological terms. Inaccuracies include that sex is “assigned to a person” and use of the phrase “assigned at birth”. This is an offensive appropriation of a term associated with the historical treatment of babies born with DSDs or VSCs and has no place in a government glossary. Sex is observed and recorded at birth. If schools must comply with the Equality Act 2010 and other statutes, the definitions use in Glossary should reflect those used in legislation.
  • The glossary uses the term ‘gender-based violence” while referring to a range of violence and mistreatment, including FGM, experienced by girls and women because of their sex, while making reference to the relevant legislation (the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015) the title of which was expressly changed from “Gender-based Violence”. This is confusing and absurd. Girls and women do not experience violence, abuse and harassment throughout their lives because they are feminine; but because they are female.
  • The acronym LGBTQ+ is imprecise and should be avoided in official documents; “the other letters that can be added” are unknown and there is pressure to include Minor Attracted Persons (MAPs or paedophiles) and other paraphilias under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.