Thursday, 28 January 2010

Oral Evidence from the CEO of the Catholic Education Service

 The  Director and CEO of the Catholic Education Service, Oona Stannard  has given Oral evidence at the Public Bill Committee, Children, Schools and Families Bill, at which evidence was also given from the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, the Personal, Sexual, Health Education Association, the Church of England,  and the Campaign Against Premature and Inappropriate Sex and Relationship Education in Schools.

The CES has issued a press release containing the Hansard transcript of this evidence taking session, which is on the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales website, linked here

Oona Stannard suggested that the formal teaching of  PHSE (which includes sex education) in schools, could be viewed as an entitlement on the part of the child.
She also suggested that parents would be beneficiaries as they would have rights  " far more overtly to engage in consultation about what is happening, seeing resources and being advised of what is happening."

On the question of whether attainment targets(!)  or tests should be set, Oona Stannard took the view that it wasn't necessary.

 On the question of compulsory sex and relationship education from the age of 15, she said :
"The possibility of not being able to withdraw a child after 15 has been a challenge to me. There are certainly people in my community who would wish it to stay until the end of schooling. I feel that the role of parents is paramount in all this. It is parents who educate children, not Governments."
She offered this opinion

"Good sex and relationships education is not about sexualising children; it is anything but. It is about keeping them safe, when it is done well. We all have to be very sensitive to this, and we have to ensure that people understand the reality of what the education will look like at the different stages. We must also keep in mind that it is “and relationships”. If we do it well, we will be helping to keep children safe, and if done well, it will not undermine the invaluable work that parents are doing."

A proposed amendment to this Bill would change  the age from which sex education becomes compulsory from “15” to “16”. Those giving oral evidence were asked:

"If you were to vote, would you vote in favour of that amendment or against it?" 

Oona Stannard initially responded that she would like to sit on the fence on that question, but when pressed further she eventually said:

"At this point in time, I would probably err on saying: allow the right of withdrawal until 16." 

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