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Relationship and Sex Education: Why a Conference? What are the Issues?

For many months a large number of people from a variety of different backgrounds have spoken to us at the Faith Network for Manchester about the new curriculum on RSE/SRE – Relationship and Sex Education that is to be introduced to schools next September.

Clearly many people were unaware that there was a wide consultation made by the
Government before the planning stage that led to a “curriculum” being formulated, with opinions being sought from all sections of society. Since the “curriculum” was published, there have been many things said about the plans which have caused a great many concerns, especially within some faith settings and faith communities. 

A lot of people making these comments have not actually looked at the proposals, I’ve not read all of them yet, and there are many rumours that are not based on facts.

That is one reason that the Greater Manchester Interfaith Network are running a conference on Thursday 7th November on “Sex and Relationship Education:
Addressing Faith Communities’ Concerns”. We are waiting for confirmation but we have been promised a speaker from the Department for Education who will be able to explain exactly “What the SRE Curriculum really is and what it is about”.

There are lots of questions that many of us have about the proposed new “curriculum”, how it is to be implemented, what is to be taught at what stage of a child’s education, how are these things to be taught, by who, what message is really being conveyed and why? These are just a handful of the issues that we have heard people express concern about and there are genuine worries and fears.

The role of policy makers, educators, teachers of particular age groups and subjects, parents and various education organisations, including school governors and unions have all been questioned. Of course, the primary concern for many is how this is going to influence children and what questions they may have after these lessons. Will they be challenging firmly held religious beliefs, will they be encouraged to rethink relationships or their sexuality and how will all this be handled? Why is all this even necessary?

The conference is aiming to bring anyone interested, concerned or involved in one way or another across Greater Manchester together to explore the issues around the new SRE “curriculum” being introduced next year. We hope to deal with the real concerns that people have and open up a dialogue to ensure that what is going to be introduced will be a positive change with lots of scope to involve people in its implementation. 

We want people to understand more about it to ensure it is fit for purpose in every school, area and community.

The SRE Conference will not solve every problem but I do believe it will help us understand more about the purpose of the new “curriculum”. It will also establish important links for positive communication about the “curriculum” and its implementation to alleviate some of the issues and concerns. I really hope that we can come away from the conference with a feeling that we are all in this together, all one world, one society, one community and have to develop greater understanding and trust of each other.

Rabbi Warren Elf, Director, Faith Network for Manchester