Strictly Orthodox educators have “welcomed” the Government’s announcement that sex education will be compulsory in all schools, because parents have been given the right to opt-out.
Until now, sex education has only been compulsory in council-run schools, but academies and free schools fall outside local authority control so do not need to follow the national curriculum, which includes sex and relationships education (SRE).
In a statement on Wednesday, Education Secretary Justine Greening outlined proposals for consulting on for the implementation of teaching Relationships and Sex Education for all schools, but Jewish groups said this had long been “on the radar”.
Judith Nemeth, director of the National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools (NAJOS), which represents more than 60 schools across the UK, said: “We know this subject needs to be confronted, yet we were concerned with how this would be culturally compatible.”
She added: “We have intently and consistently been lobbying the Government to ensure that any provision is sensitive to the needs of Jewish Orthodox schools… The Government has been very receptive to our submissions.”
On the parental opt-out, Nemeth said this was “one of the most important features of this statement,” adding: “I would hope that this goes alongside schools being able to impress on parents the need for them to engage their children and talk about these topics that are so important in a way that fits within their own ethos and culture. Maybe this calls for a need for compulsory parent education!”
Rabbi Avroham Pinter, principal of Yesodeh Hatorah School, said many parents had “abdicated responsibility” on sex education to schools, but that “more parents are now taking back this responsibility, and that is to be welcomed”.
Asked whether he expected a flood of opt-outs, he said: “It depends how it is taught. Many Orthodox parents feel this is something that should come from home, but if the schools can teach it sensitively, in consultation with parents, then you may not see parents opting-out en masse.”
While awaiting further detail, a spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: “It looks like there are appropriate safeguards that will allow all our different Jewish schools to each teach about relationships and sex in accordance with their respective ethos. Parents will also continue to have the right to decide what they consider appropriate.”