Keegan faces Tory anger after refusal to publish sex education review findings

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, is facing a backlash from Tory MPs
Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, is facing a backlash from Tory MPs - Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Gillian Keegan is facing a backlash from Tory MPs and parents for refusing to publish sex education reform recommendations.

The Telegraph has learnt that the Education Secretary has no plans to reveal the outcome of a sex education review by an independent panel, appointed by the Government to advise on age ratings on lesson materials.

Rishi Sunak ordered an urgent review of sex education in March after The Telegraph exposed evidence of widespread teaching of “age inappropriate” materials in schools, including 13 year-olds being told there are 100 genders.

Nearly 50 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to launch an independent inquiry.

MPs claimed the Department for Education’s (DfE) most recent relationships and sex education guidance, produced in 2019 in consultation with Stonewall, the LGBT+ charity, had allowed “activist groups” to overly influence teaching materials. The guidance does not set age limits on what can be taught.

Five education experts were appointed to an independent advisory panel, including Alasdair Henderson, the joint deputy chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and Sir Hamid Patel, the chief executive of Star Academies and a member of the Ofsted board.

They were due to report back to the DfE by September, but a department spokesman said there were no plans to publish the panel’s recommendations. The DfE has pledged to publish its own plans to reform sex education for consultation before the end of the year, after considering the recommendations.

Miriam Cates, the Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said: “Given the significant public interest in this issue and the rights of parents and taxpayers to know what children are being taught in state schools, it would be odd for the DfE not to publish the recommendations of the independent RSE [relationships and sex education] review panel.

“The review was instigated as a result of a lack of transparency about materials used in sex education, and so it would be wrong – and deeply ironic – to conceal the findings. I’m confident that the Government is committed to transparency in schools, and so I hope the recommendations will be made available in due course.”

Nick Fletcher, the MP for Don Valley, said: “My view is that the full workings of the independent panel, including their recommendations, should be published.

“A lack of visibility, parental engagement, and open discussion has got us into the dire situation we have today with relationships and sex education. Now we need to reverse that culture and maximise openness.”

Parent campaigners are also urging the DfE to publish the independent panel’s recommendations.

Clare Page, a mother from London who is fighting a legal battle to obtain sex education materials used in her daughter’s school, said: “I am very disappointed that the DfE is not planning to make the recommendations of the independent review panel public.

“In many ways, this sums up the authoritarian approach that the DfE has taken regarding this subject all along, and it makes me rather pessimistic about the outcome of the review.”

Tracy Shaw, of the Safe Schools Alliance, which campaigns for safeguarding to be upheld in schools, said: “The process should be transparent, so that parents and other taxpayers would be able to trust it.

“We hope the Government will reconsider, and demonstrate a sincere commitment to child safeguarding. We question what on earth this has uncovered that cannot be made public.”

A DfE spokesman said: “As part of our urgent review of the relationships, sex and health education curriculum, we appointed an independent expert review panel to consider changes to the existing guidance. The guidance will be published for consultation before the end of the year and will be informed by the panel’s advice.”