A consultation is taking place in Northern Ireland, before new guidance to schools will be issued on Relationships and Sexuality Education for January 2024. The opportunity to contribute to the consultation, ending on November 24th, has been framed around whether parents should be able to excuse post-primary children from new government proscribed teaching about abortion and contraception created by Northern Ireland’s Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA). And yet there is no specific question in the consultation even asking for views on whether parents should be able to excuse their children.
The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), term, what they would like to see taught to more children in Northern Ireland, as the ‘preventative curriculum’. This covers teaching on how to prevent conceived children from being born. Abortion. It has long been an area of distinction in Northern Ireland that there have been far fewer abortions. Progressive views, promulgated through international guidance and reports, are in the process of being enforced across Northern Ireland’s schools to further educate children about the access to and new legal status of abortion. Further aspects of the ‘preventative curriculum’ include gender identity, sexual identity and LGBTQ+ issues.
Christian Concern is creating and submitting a detailed response to the consultation: Parents, school staff and organisations in Northern Ireland and beyond also have an opportunity to contribute to the consultation process. We have provided some suggested answers below to the specific questions. However we encourage you to use your own words and your own experiences in responding clearly, accurately, constructively and persuasively in your contribution.
Do your own research, and prayerfully contribute emphasising the following six points wherever you can:
- That there should be a right for parents to remove their children from such teaching in what is acknowledged to be a sensitive area, that conflicts with beliefs of the home and religion.
- That it is impossible for any teaching on abortion and contraception to be morally neutral, and that even the decision to teach the ‘facts’ about these topics is a moral and ethical decision, which should be left to parents to decide for their sons and daughters from age 11.
- That the CCEA have been significantly influenced by campaigning LGBT organisations such as Brook, as evidenced in the resources on their website.
- That any teaching or vocabulary based in gender identity belief is not ‘scientifically accurate’.
- That the specific nature and content of any new teaching proposed should be made totally transparent to parents.
- That there is no agreed definition of what is age-appropriate, and so this must remain the decision of the parents.
Guidance on Specific Questions:
“The content of teaching and learning resources for Learning for Life and Work developed by CCEA should be factual and contain age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion and these resources should not advocate, or oppose, a particular view on the moral and ethical considerations of abortion or contraception.”
Suggested answer: Disagree
Note: The question is leading respondents to agree, but the CCEA has already been choosing to advocate for unscientific gender ideology based resources for children. The assumption of the possibility of moral neutrality in any content provision can also be disagreed with here. Also the fact that there is no agreed definition of what is age appropriate is a key reason to disagree. Add further detail from your own research or opinion, emphasising any of the six points above.
“Parents/carers should be informed about the specific nature and content of the age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.”
Suggested answer: Agree
Note: In order for a parent to decide what is age appropriate, or to decide to ask for their child to be excused, a full disclosure of the content must be given without reservation or exception. There is no agreed definition of what is age appropriate. Add your own opinions or reflections on this issue.
“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child includes at Articles 1-3 and 12 the rights of the child to ‘express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously’ and at Article 5 ‘the rights and responsibilities of parents and carers to provide guidance and direction to their child as they grow up so that they fully enjoy their rights. This must be done in a way that recognises the child’s increasing capacity to make their own choices.’ The Department’s guidance, when developed, should consider in such instances how schools balance the rights of both children and parents/carers in implementing the regulations.”
Suggested answer: Neither agree nor disagree
Note: There is a lot referenced in this question. The rights based approach itself is flawed, often denying responsibilities and assuming that individual autonomy is the paramount concern. The consistent trend is towards children being able to ‘fully enjoy their rights’ (for example sexual rights) in the support of broader political or social aims, at the expense of parents. Although one can agree that there should be a balance, and that children have increasing capacity, an ‘agree’, does not necessarily give an effective response given the nuanced comment necessary here. Where you feel able reference Article 2 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR, where the rights of the parents to be respected by the state in this area, are secured.
“Pupils and parents/carers should have access to an overview of their school’s RSE policy and planned RSE programme.”
Suggested answer: Agree
Note: As with 2, the policy and any overview should be fully available to parents. Add reasons why you believe this to be important especially related to abortion or contraception. Consider using any of the six points above you think are relevant. Gillian Keegan’s recent letter to schools can also be referenced.
The consultation period comes to an end on the 24th November, so please submit your own thoughts by this date.