The RSE Curriculum in Wales – Update and action

Please write to your Members of the Senedd as soon as possible!

On Tuesday 14 December the new RSE Code which forms part of the new Curriculum for Wales will be before the Senedd in Cardiff Bay. Thirty minutes have been allocated to the debate. Extensively revised since the consultation in the Summer of 2021, it is at first glance a much-improved document which we know is in part due to the high number of responses pointing out the inadequacies in the Draft Guidance and Code document that went out to consultation. Well done to everyone who responded.

We support universal access to high quality, safe, age appropriate, fully inclusive, scientifically accurate relationship and sex education for all children and young people to enable them to fulfil their potential, and live and love safely and healthily whatever their background or protected characteristics. We believe that some difficult and sensitive topics such as sexism, sex stereotypes, pornography and sexual exploitation should be covered from a critical perspective and that same-sex relationships should be treated as uncontroversial and mainstreamed within the curriculum.

We still have some serious concerns about the new curriculum and wrote to all Members of the Senedd last week outlining the fundamental flaws in the RSE Code they are being asked to approve. Our Senedd Briefing is below.

In summary, we feel the draft RSE Code falls short in the following respects:

  • It fails to ensure appropriate, accurate and safe content, materials and delivery of the RSE Curriculum. Learners in Wales should have the same safeguards as those in England have under the DfE Guidance.
  • It lacks specific focus on addressing gender stereotypes, sexism, pornography and violence against women and girls. In fact, the Code doesn’t use the words male, female, boy, girl or pornography even once.
  • The Welsh Government is intent on using ill-defined terms – fashionable among only a small cohort of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people – which have no basis in law as well as so-called ‘reclaimed slurs’ which many members of the LGBT community find offensive in government policy, statutory guidance and legislation.
  • The title of this area of the Curriculum for Wales is inappropriate given that it will apply to children from 3 to 16 years old and be mandatory. The rationale for calling it ‘Relationships and Sexuality Education’ is unsound. We believe it should be known as ‘Relationships and Sex Education.’

However, as more information has come to light we’ve become even more concerned.

Welsh Government is seeking approval for the new RSE Code without sharing the revised Guidance. The interrelationship between the two is crucial. There are some major issues that Members of the Senedd won’t be aware of and really should be.

  1. MSs are only being given part of the story.
    The Explanatory Memorandum that accompanies the RSE Code glosses over the content of the 866 consultation responses and refers only to the summary report, which is vague and superficial. The summary report is sketchy and doesn’t give the actual ratio of positive to critical responses. Why? Only a small number of negative quotes are included and it’s implied that serious concerns that were raised and cogently argued should be dismissed as being due to the ignorance of the respondents. MSs are only being given part of the story.
  2. The Senedd is being asked to approve the RSE Code without knowing what the Guidance documents will contain.
    While the document laid with the Senedd is a big improvement there is no guarantee that controversial content such as the ideologically-loaded glossary (Annex on page 19) definitions included in the Consultation document won’t simply have been moved to the as yet unpublished Guidance. Politicians, schools, teacher, parents and learners need to have faith in these documents. How can anyone, including Members of the Senedd, be confident that the issues have been addressed?
  3. Pilot schemes are already in place in schools even though the curriculum has not been approved.
    Pilots of the new RSE Curriculum have been running in some schools since the beginning of the Autumn term and will continue until Feb 2022. It seems that some are being led by organisations whose ideological approach is clear through their materials and resources. This means that a curriculum that hasn’t been approved by the Senedd is being run already by providers who don’t meet the safeguarding criteria set out in the English DfE guidance.

Members of the Senedd need to know that Welsh Government’s conduct in relation to RSE in Wales and their focus on one ideological viewpoint is not uncontroversial, and it’s very far from satisfactory.

Please take action!

Everyone in Wales has 5 MSs – one for their constituency and another 4 regional members. Click here to find out who yours are. Please email them as soon as possible – preferably by Sunday 12 December. Pick the issues that are most important to you and write in your own words. If you responded to the consultation back in July you could also use key points you made then or attach your full response to the email.

Check out our Senedd Briefing on the RSE Code and our Blogs section for more background.

MC Briefing Welsh Gov RSE Code Dec 2021