Parents accuse Welsh Government of promoting a ‘dangerous woke agenda’ after losing sex education challenge
Parents have vowed to fight on after losing a legal challenge against the teaching of gender identity and sex to their primary school age children in Wales – accusing the Welsh Government of promoting a “dangerous woke agenda”.
Campaigners from the Public Child Protection Wales group launched a judicial review in the High Court against the Welsh Government’s new Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum.
It was launched in September and sees the mandatory teaching of relationships and sexuality education to children from the age of seven.
Parent Kim Isherwood, who led the legal challenge, said: “We asked the High Court to recognise the overreach of power by the Welsh Government, we asked the court to help us protect our children from future emotional, physical, and psychological harm.
“The evidence we provided to the court referenced and highlighted concerning levels of betrayal, deceit and false claims made by the Welsh Government, but it appears as though the judge agrees with them – not only do we parents not have rights, but they were never there to begin with.
“The team is preparing the appeal, the higher the court the louder the message. This is not a loss – this is another level of exposure.
“We look forward to another court hearing in the coming weeks where we will fight all the harder to protect our children from a dangerous woke agenda gone off the rails.”
Four mothers and one father brought a legal challenge in November at the Civil Justice Centre in Cardiff saying the new curriculum was inappropriate for primary age children.
Their claim centred on the “whole-school approach” of the new curriculum which did not allow for any right of parental excusal.
Some of the children attend state schools while others have been removed due to concerns about the curriculum.
They maintained the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 had not removed the right to excusal, and if it did, it would be contrary to parental rights under Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention of Human Rights (A2P1).
Dismissing all aspects of the claim, Mrs Justice Steyn said: “In my judgment, for the reasons I have given, the case law and texts relied upon by the claimants do not support the existence of a fundamental common law right of excusal.
“This conclusion is unsurprising, given the nature of the claimed right, which is conceptually dependent on a pre-existing obligation of school attendance, and which, as defined by the claimants, has the appearance of legislation rather than a common law right.
“In my judgment, the content of the code and the guidance is consistent with the requirement to take care to ensure that RSE teaching is conveyed in an objective critical and pluralistic manner, and does not breach the prohibition on indoctrination.
“There is nothing in the code or the guidance that authorises or positively approves teaching that advocates or promotes any particular identity or sexual lifestyle over another, or that encourages children to self-identify in a particular way.”
The judge rejected the assertion the teaching of RSE was a breach of A2P1 and said the policy was intended to be “inclusive” and to “reflect diversity”, including by developing awareness of different identities, views and values.
“The fact that such teaching is likely to include the expression of some views with which the claimants profoundly disagree and, no doubt, other views with which others would disagree equally strongly does not violate A2P1,” she added.
Welsh education minister Jeremy Miles welcomed the ruling and said RSE was intended to “keep children safe and to promote respect and healthy relationships”.
“Now more than ever, our children need our help in protecting them from harmful content and people online,” he said.
“RSE should provide young people with confidence to say no to bullies, to call out harassment, and to understand that families come in all shapes and sizes.
“I want parents to understand what is being taught and what resources are being used, and for schools to take the time to have those discussions with parents. This will require time, patience and confidence-building.”
He added: “I would like to put on record that I am appalled by the misinformation that has been purposefully spread by some campaigners, and the additional pressure this has brought upon some schools and workforce.”
The ruling was also welcomed by teaching unions and the NSPCC who said the curriculum provided for education that was “relevant, sensitive, and age-appropriate”.
But the Welsh Conservatives said the concerns of parents should be respected and not ignored.
Shadow education minister Laura Anne Jones said: “While the courts have found in favour of the Labour Government, this decision should not be allowed to delegitimise the concerns of Welsh parents in any way.
“The plight of parents should not be ignored and I will ensure that pertinent questions are raised regarding the teaching of RSE with the education minister and that the answers we seek are sought out.
“We continue to support the rights of parents to withdraw their children from RSE lessons when they feel the content is not age appropriate.”
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