The Welsh government has announced plans to overhaul its sex and relationship curriculum – and vowed to make sure it is LGBT-inclusive.
The announcement comes 30 years on from the imposition of Section 28 in schools in Wales, England and Scotland.
Three decades on from the landmark anti-gay law, which banned the so-called promotion of homosexuality in schools, the Welsh government on Tuesday said it would ensure children receive an LGBT-inclusive education.
Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) is already is a part of the basic curriculum in Wales, however, it is up to schools to decide an individual approach to the subject.
Under an overhaul the subject will become Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), which will become a statutory subject from 2022.
The new RSE curriculum will include a heavy emphasis on “forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships,” aiming to progress beyond teachings on basic biology.
In addition to covering “a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ learners,” the subject will include “wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity.”
Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, a Liberal Democrat, said: “The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it.
“Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality. Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.
“The fact is relationships and sexuality shape our lives as well as the world around us. They are a fundamental part of who we are and how we understand ourselves, each other and society.
“By creating RSE as a statutory area of study in our new curriculum for Wales, we will support our young people to develop healthy relationships, maintain good mental health and keep physically and sexually safe.”
She added: “Of course, thirty years on from the introduction of Section 28, we will also ensure that RSE is fully inclusive of all genders and sexualities and meets the needs of LGBTQI+ learners.
“Crucial to all of this will be ensuring that our teachers have the knowledge and confidence to provide the RSE our learners deserve. That’s why we’re providing to ensure that we get the training and professional development right.
“Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher denounced local education authorities for teaching children that ‘they have an inalienable right to be gay.’
“I want all our learners to know that they have an inalienable right to be happy – this is the driving force behind the changes we’re proposing.”
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The announcement states: “At its core, Relationships and Sexuality Education acknowledges we are all different and have different needs. Through improved professional learning for RSE we will ensure that our teaching profession can better support all learners, including those that identify as LGBTQI+.”
“Relationships and Sexuality Education will be statutory within the new curriculum from the age of 5, as this is the age of statutory schooling.
“All Relationships and Sexuality Education provided for children and young people must be appropriate to their age and developmental stage.”
RSE will become statutory from the age of five to 16 under the changes, with an “age-appropriate curriculum” put in place. Parents and religious schools will keep opt-outs.
The news comes after an expert panel led by Emma Renold, Professor of Childhood Studies at Cardiff University, drew up recommendations for reforms.
Professor Emma Renold said: “I am delighted that the expert panel’s recommendations have been met with such unequivocal enthusiasm by Kirsty Williams.
“Embracing and implementing the panel’s evidenced-based vision to transform Relationships and Sexuality Education, from effective pedagogy to teacher training, will, over time, ensure a relevant, engaging and high quality RSE that meets the needs of all children and young people.
“Underpinning the new curriculum with the core principles of rights, equity, inclusivity, protection and empowerment makes for a very promising future for RSE in Wales and takes forward some of the best practice already underway in primary and secondary schools in Wales, and internationally.”