Myth Busting RSE in NI

1. Will masturbation and pornography be added to the primary school RSE Curriculum?

The short answer to this question is no.

The statutory curriculum for personal development and mutual understanding at primary level includes high level prescribed content for RSE at each key stage; this is the minimum entitlement that all young people must legally receive. You can read more about the required content here.

Currently the statutory curriculum for primary schools contains no sex education and this is not due to change under the regulations made by the Secretary of State. These regulations change the statutory curriculum for post primary (Key Stage 3&4) schools alone.

The fact that the changes to the curriculum will not impact the primary school curriculum were confirmed by the Department of Education in a letter responding to parental concerns. They stated:

'The changes in the Curriculum have come about following the Secretary of State Regulations (sic) which came into force on 1 July 2023. The purpose of these regulations was to amend the Education (Curriculum Minimum Content) Order (Northern Ireland) 2007 in respect of Learning for Life to ensure pupils at Key Stages 3 and 4 have the opportunity to "Receive age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion".'

Parents of primary school pupils should, however, be vigilant of what is being taught in primary school RSE, especially in light of CCEA creating a new Progression Framework that includes a range of resources for teaching LGBTQ+ ideologies to primary school pupils.

We recommend that parents of primary school pupils contact their school to ask for the RSE Policy and what content is covered at each Key Stage.

2. But I've received a leaflet saying that they will

Sadly there is a lot of conspiracy theory style misinformation being spread by those who believe that the changes to RSE are part of a global plot by the UN and WHO to indoctrinate children.

Leaflets containing the same shocking claims about RSE content have appeared all over the UK and Ireland and draw heavily from a 2010 World Health Organisation document called "Standards for Sexuality Education in Europe".

This publication is merely a framework for a different approach, known as “holistic sexuality education” – described as teaching children about the cognitive, emotional, social, interactive and physical aspects of sexuality. It is not a document that prescribes how governments should arrange their RSE Curricula.

Time and time again the assertion that RSE Curricula will be based on this WHO document have been circulated both online and in leaflets. Time and time again they have been proven to be untrue. This, however, has failed to stop the misinformation being shared.

In England leaflets containing claims that primary school pupils would be taught about masturbation were distributed in 2019. This assertion was removed from later versions of the leaflet. 

In 2020 the government introduced an RSE curriculum that did not include the aspects the leaflet suggested. Recently, a government spokesperson said: 'The UK Government does not recognise this WHO guidance and we don't agree with its recommendations. We have not distributed or promoted it to schools.'

In Wales similar leaflets disributed in 2022 claimed the country's new Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum could introduce young children to "self-stimulation, masturbation, bondage and anal sex". Its allegations were also accompanied by suggestive images on the leaflet.

While a 2017 report from Cardiff University, that was commissioned by the Welsh Government cited the 2010 WHO report it simply quoted definitions of what RSE was and did not suggest the Welsh Curriculum should adopt the materials suggested in the document.

By the time leaflets were distributed in Wales the Curriculum had already been published and did not contain the content that the leaflet said it did. At the time a spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: "The leaflet is full of misinformation and unevidenced, incorrect claims. We urge people to access the facts in our code and guidance' 

In a written statement Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language stated: 'At the core of this literature is the group's claims that RSE in Wales is part of a co-ordinated "global rollout" of "comprehensive sexuality education" which it is claimed will sexualise children...

'I strongly encourage members and anyone concerned to read the Code and statutory guidance for themselves to see how misleading and lacking in evidence the claims of this group are.'

The Minister later went on to state: 'We have repeatedly asked the group to desist from spreading on numerous occasions deeply misleading information about RSE and what children will be taught. We will continue to do so. However, they persist in distributing leaflets containing these baseless claims about RSE in the new curriculum.'

In 2020, prior to the Irish Government even starting to consider the content of their RSE Curriculum, leaflets were being distributed claiming that 4 year olds would be taught how to masturbate. Wording from some of these leaflets are is almost identical to some of the leaflets being distributed in NI.

At the time The Journal created a comprehensive fact check of the claims contained in the leaflet and rated them as false. Unsurprisingly the new RSE Curriculum recently announced contains none of this content.

The shocking nature of the content of these leaflets has provided an easy target for government ministers and the press to undermine the fight against the new RSE Curricula in jurisdictions across these islands. They have allowed governments off the hook too easily and have allowed them to create and implement extreme curricula that don't include - and were never going to include - the extremely shocking content these leaflets advertise.

The misinformation contained in these leaflets is deeply damaging to the cause of protecting our children. If you see any leaflet making any claim that children will be taught highly sexualised content we would encourage you to ensure that you do not pass this information on any further.

3. Why then are there examples of sexualised content appearing in the press?

Anybody who follows the news closely will be aware that graphic and inappropriate sex lessons have been delivered in schools in England and should, rightly, be concerned that they will be taught here in the future.

Since September 2020, Relationships Education has been compulsory in primary schools and RSE mandatory in secondary schools in England. The change left many teaching staff seeking guidance.

The void was filled by charities — some harbouring unconventional views on biological sex and sharing material on their websites that references underage sex. These organisations have twisted aspects of the curriculum in order to push the extreme views that they hold.

While these lessons are being delivered in a relatively small percentage of schools they have been so shocking that the Prime Minister said he has asked the Department for Education to 'ensure that schools are not teaching inappropriate or contested content in RSHE', adding: 'Our priority should always be the safety and well-being of children and schools should also make curriculum content and materials available to parents.

'As a result of all of this, we are bringing forward a review of RSHE statutory guidance and we will start our consultation as soon as possible.'

In May 2023 the Department for Education appointed an expert panel to review the relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education curriculum for England and erase "disturbing and inappropriate content".

Education Minister, Gillian Keegan said that the wellbeing and safeguarding of children was the government's "absolute priority", and she shared "the concerns of parents and teachers about reports that inappropriate lessons are being taught in schools".

For us in NI we should draw lessons from what has happened in England and, in particular, be aware of third party organisations who are pushing harmful ideologies on our children. For advise on organisations to mark and avoid visit our Third Party Providers page.

4. So what role do the UN have to play in all of this?

An act of tyranny at Westminster in 2019 (Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act) stripped the Stormont Government of all power over abortion laws here. The Westminster Government, through the Secretary of State continue to push their abortion agenda on Northern Ireland.

Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019 placed a duty on the Secretary of State to 'ensure that the recommendations in paragraphs 85 and 86 of the CEDAW report are implemented in respect of Northern Ireland'. While Paragraph 85 cleared the way for the decriminalisation of abortion, Paragraph 86 includes a range of social re-education steps to make abortion more acceptable to the public. Included in this is the introduction of a compulsory RSE Curriculum.

On the 6th of June 2023 the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, made a written statement to the House of Commons, indicating that he intended to change the RSE Curriculum in Northern Ireland. He said:

'I have today laid Regulations in Parliament to implement the CEDAW recommendation to "make age-appropriate, comprehensive and scientifically accurate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, a compulsory component of curriculum for adolescents, covering prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion in Northern Ireland, and monitor its implementation". The Regulations will mirror the approach taken in England with regard to education about the prevention of early pregnancy and access to abortion.'

This is where the UN's influence over what is happening in Northern Ireland ends. Neither they nor the WHO are writing the new RSE Curriculum for Northern Ireland.

5. Who is actually drafting the new RSE Curriculum

The answer to this is much more mundane than the idea that secret global agents are writing out new curriculum. The reality is that pro abortion and pro LGBTQ+ activists within the Department of Education, CCEA and the Northern Ireland office are creating it.

6. What will my children actually be taught

In the future CCEA's Progression Framework will form the basis for the new statutory Post Primary RSE Curriculum for Northern Ireland that is to be released by January 2024 This was confirmed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, during a Delegated Legislation Committee debate at Westminster on the 26th of June when he said:

"The Department of Education and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment have been developing an RSE progression framework that will be adapted and used in the guidance issued by the Department."

The adaptation that the Secretary of State requires to the CCEA Progression Framework is the inclusion of information on how pupils can access and perform their own abortions without parental knowledge or consent.

The regulations laid also mean that the statutory content for primary schools will not change.

Make no mistake. Despite the fact that this framework does not contain some of the most sexualised content contained on leaflets currently being distributed around NI it still contains extreme content. You can read more about CCEA's RSE Hub and the dangers of it by clicking here and here.

7. When does the new curriculum take effect?

There is misinformation circling online and through leaflets suggesting that schools will be teaching a new curriculum from September 2023. This is untrue.

No new curriculum is currently in place and won't be before the end of 2023. It is then higly likely that schools will be required to adopt the new curriculum from September 2024.

Parents should still contact their child's school and ask for details on their RSE Policy and whether the school intends to use any materials this year from CCEA's RSE Hub.