Ethos and values of schools should be respected: Dodds

DUP Education Spokesperson Diane Dodds MLA has said the publication of a Department of Education Consultation on Relationships and Sexuality Education is a vital opportunity to press for the ethos and values of schools to be respected.

By Diane Dodds MLA

Upper Bann

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The Upper Bann MLA said, “The legislative changes, passed by Parliament apply to post-primary schools in Northern Ireland, adding further requirements to the RSE based material already taught, and critically include new elements on prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion services. These changes do not apply to the primary school setting.

Many parents are concerned about the RSE content already taught in schools. This change in the law relates to an emotive, sensitive and controversial issue, yet there was no opportunity for the public in Northern Ireland to have their say when the legislation was brought forward by the Secretary of State. DUP MPs opposed it, but despite our representations and voting against it in Parliament the Government railroaded the legislation through.

This consultation is focused on the ability to permit a pupil to be withdrawn from those specific aspects at the request of parents. It is vital that any changes to the teaching of RSE must not be introduced until opt-out regulations are in place. A right to opt-out should also be open to teachers to ensure no-one is faced with the conflict between their personal beliefs and the teaching of an emotive subject.

Not only must the right to opt-out be enshrined, but it Is our strong view that the teaching of these issues must take account of the ethos and values of the school. We value the Christian ethos which is at the heart of many of our schools. This is particularly important when dealing with emotive and ethical issues such as these. That knowledge of the ethos of the school, agreed by the Board of Governors facilitates a full engagement between parents and the school.

This is an issue of great importance to parents, teachers, school governors and many in the wider community. The DUP will be making a full response to this consultation and we will continue to engage with the Department of Education as well as working in common cause with all interested parties to ensure there is a full response to this important consultation.

It is vitally important that everyone takes the time to participate in this process.”

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