Age ratings to be put on sex education lessons

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary - Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock
Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary - Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock

Age ratings will be imposed on sex education lessons by independent reviewers as part of a Government clampdown on controversial teaching resources.

A review ordered by Rishi Sunak will introduce film-style age restrictions on what children can be taught to ensure that children are “protected from inappropriate content”.

An independent panel will be appointed in the coming weeks to advise on how to put in place “clear safeguards to stop pupils from being taught contested and potentially damaging concepts”. The review will be completed by the end of the year.

Ministers have been scrambling to respond to parents’ concerns after The Telegraph revealed evidence of widespread teaching of age-inappropriate content and radical gender theory in schools.

Partisan providers

A study by the think tank Policy Exchange this week reported further evidence that sex education in schools has been infiltrated by partisan providers.

The Department for Education’s 2019 Relationships and Sex Education guidance, drawn up in consultation with the LGBT+ charity Stonewall, imposed no ceiling on what could be taught and specified that teaching about "gender identity" should be part of the curriculum.

MPs have warned that the guidance is so vague that it opened the door for activist groups to influence teaching in schools, using controversial teaching resources such as the "gender unicorn" diagram, showing sliding scales of male, female and other identities, alongside spectrums of gender expression and sex assigned at birth.

Some third-party providers have imposed copyright restrictions on resources, and attempted to stop schools from sharing materials with parents.

Too slow to respond

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, who has been accused of being too slow to respond to parents’ concerns, wrote to schools on Friday reminding them to share materials with parents.

In the letter, which has been promised by the Department for Education since last summer, she said: “The department is clear that parents should be able to view all curriculum materials.

“This includes cases where an external agency advises schools that their materials cannot be shared due to restrictions in commercial law, or a school’s contract with the provider prohibits sharing materials beyond the classroom.

“Parents are not able to veto curriculum content, but it is reasonable for them to ask to see the materials external providers will use in advance.”

She urged schools to renegotiate any existing contracts with providers that prevent parents from viewing materials outside of school premises because of copyright concerns.

Transgender guidance

Details of the sex education review come after the Prime Minister announced on Thursday that long-awaited transgender guidance for schools would be published in the summer term.

The guidance is expected to address issues such as whether schools should provide gender-neutral toilets.

Kemi Badenoch, the Trade Secretary, suggested that schools should not have gender-neutral toilets on Friday.

“Privacy is the key thing,” she told Times Radio. “A gender neutral toilet is one where there is actually limited privacy, and both sexes are able to use them – one where you have exposed urinals [and] cubicles with minimal privacy.”

A spokeswoman for the Bayswater Support Group of parents of trans-identified adolescents and young people in the UK, said: “We have long called for gender identity to be taught as a belief, not a fact. We hope that the DfE will now also address our concerns about schools socially transitioning children without parental consent.”

Responding to the sex education review, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Now that this review is happening, it will be essential that the Department for Education engages properly with a range of experts and stakeholders, including parents, pupils, teachers and leaders.

“There is a great deal of strong practice in schools across the country that can and should be shared and built on.”