In an oral statement to the Commons on Thursday, Mr Hinds said: "We've previously committed to parents having a right to withdraw their children from the sex education part of RSE [relationships and sex education], but not from relationships education, in either primary or secondary school.
"A right for parents to withdraw their child up to 18 years of age is no longer compatible with English case law nor with the European Convention on Human Rights."But is it true to suggest that the European Convention on Human Rights disallows withdrawal by parents of their children from sex education in the years immediately leading up to age 18?
The consultation document about which Damian Hinds was speaking can be found at the Department for Education website: here. It represents a draft of statutory guidance to which, if it is implemented, schools will have "have regard". The relevant sections can be found on page 12 and following. My emphasis added in the extract below:
36. The role of parents in the development of their children’s understanding about relationships is vital. Parents are the first educators of their children. They have the most significant influence in enabling their children to grow and mature and to form healthy relationships.And the relevant article of the Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, which forms a full part of the Convention, with my emphasis added (cf Article 26 n.3 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights):
Article 2: right to education
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.Damian Hinds' consultation document at n.36 represents a clear and blatant derogation from the provision of the Convention to which it has reference.
This derogation is further followed by the suggestion of a good practice which expects headteachers to, in effect, make every effort to dissuade a parent from exercising a right to withdrawal. Given the likely power imbalance in the conversation between a head teacher and an individual parent, the use of the terminology of "discuss" or "discussion" may not accurately reflect the provision of the Convention that the State respect the right of parents with regard to the education of their children.
41. Parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE. Before granting any such request it would be good practice for the head teacher to discuss the request with the parent and, as appropriate, with the child to ensure that their wishes are understood and to clarify the nature and purpose of the curriculum.
42. Good practice is also likely to include the head teacher discussing with the parent the benefits of receiving this important education and any detrimental effects that withdrawal might have on the child. This could include any social and emotional effects of being excluded, as well as the likelihood of the child hearing their peers’ version of what was said in the classes, rather than what was directly said by the teacher (although the detrimental effects may be mitigated if the parent proposes to deliver sex education to their child at home instead).
43. Once those discussions have taken place, except in exceptional circumstances, the school should respect the parents’ request to withdraw the child, up to and until three terms before the child turns 16. After that point, if the child wishes to receive sex education rather than be withdrawn, the school should make arrangements to provide the child with sex education during one of those terms.So is Damian Hinds telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with regard to his proposals and the European Convention on Human Rights?