Press Statement from the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales
Issued by Matt Hopkinson on 05/11/2009 10:49
Press statement – for immediate release 5th November 2009
CESEW response to proposals relating to Sex and Relationships Education and parental rights
The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) believes that Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) is vital in the education of young people. It enables factual information from reliable sources to be communicated and misinformation from peers or street culture or exploitation to be avoided. The CESEW also recognises that Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is rightly a sensitive issue. We continue to wholeheartedly support the belief that parents are the first educators of their children, as well as recognising the significant roles and responsibilities of governing bodies on these issues.
Whilst disappointed that legal encumbrances mean that a blanket right of withdrawal can no longer apply, we are pleased that the Government has recognised that the right of withdrawal in formative years is most critical and is therefore providing for the ability of parents to opt-out of SRE up to the age of 15.
CESEW will continue to firmly uphold the position that parental rights remain vital, particularly but not exclusively, in those most formative and critical years up until the age of 15.
As age and growing independence brings young people ever closer to pressures, advertising and coercion to behaviour which can undermine the healthy life of young people, we are comforted in the knowledge that our schools and colleges will do an exceptional job in providing Sex and Relationships Education, set within the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Being Parish Priest in the centre of one of the most sexualised city in England, I really do believe that our young people need to be taught about sex, about sexual relationships and responsibilities. I am concerned that government initiatives rather than ameliorating the situation have proved themselves to be contribute to the sexualisation of young people, which shows itself in the level of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies amongst school age children.
I would have no problem with this government initiative in Catholic schools providing Catholic teaching and principles lay clearly behind their implementation. The problem is that we are having increasing difficulty staffing our Catholic schools with teachers who believe and accept the Magisterium. In our deanery we have the largest Catholic school in Europe, I am sure it does its best but those young people I speak seem to have little understanding or even knowledge of Catholic teaching on sexuality.
The Catholic Education Service of England and Wales says, "we are comforted in the knowledge that our schools and colleges will do an exceptional job in providing Sex and Relationships Education, set within the teachings of the Catholic Church". They might well be comforted by this knowledge but I would like to see some evidence but as far as I know there is no statistical evidence that this sense of "comfort" is justified. The anecdotal evidence would suggest that beyond the Primary level, a far from "exceptional job" is done.
There many elephants in the room, yesterday the Holy Father called for a healthy debate over theological issues that had not been defined by the Magisterium, in England and Wales we need a healthy debate over so many pastoral issues, one of which is sex education in our schools, possibly even whether we are still capable of staffing our larger schools with teachers who understand and are capable of teaching what the Catholic teaches to be true and from God.