Herefordshire Catholic schools sex programme under fire

Herefordshire Catholic schools sex programme under fire

A school’s sex and relationship programme which says contraception is wrong and gay and lesbian people cannot marry has been criticised by a council.

A Fertile Heart is being taught at St Mary’s Roman Catholic High School in Herefordshire through The Archdiocese of Cardiff.

It also says men were “created to initiate sexual relationships” and women are to be “receiver-responders”.

The archdiocese has been contacted by the BBC for a response.

Felicity Norman, Herefordshire Council’s children and families cabinet member, said she has serious concerns about the programme, although the local authority has “no power” over what the Archdiocese chooses to teach within county schools.

“It seems to be at odds with the essential role of a school to foster caring and cooperative relations between all children and staff, to respect differences and to support and encourage children as they negotiate the difficulties of adolescence,” she said.

“We are disturbed at the failure of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, responsible for directing its schools as to what it teaches, to respond to us over this or other matters concerning the safeguarding of children, in spite of attempts on our part to engage with them.”

The school’s head teacher Stuart Wetson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that St Mary’s was a Catholic school and their relationships and sex education policy was inspired by religious teachings of the Roman Catholic faith.

It was acting in accordance with government guidance on Relationships and Sex Education (RSHE) and was “committed to providing our pupils with opportunities for broad and balanced debate on a range of issues whilst teaching distinctive faith perspectives on relationships”, he said.

“We continue to review and evaluate our practice, sharing feedback from teachers, pupils and parents with the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the publishers of key resources.”

The latest Ofsted report for the school in Lugwardine in 2019 rated it outstanding in all areas and praised pupil development and its “extremely effective” safeguarding.

In November, the Secretary of State for Education was asked by MP Stella Creasy whether material published on the website A Fertile Heart was permitted to be used in schools according to government guidance.

Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb said it was for schools to decide which resources they choose to support the teaching of RSHE.

There was clear advice for schools on choosing resources within the Department for Education’s “Plan your relationships, sex and health curriculum”, as well as the statutory RSHE.

“The department has stated that schools should not work with agencies that take extreme positions, and this should also be reflected in the school’s choice of resources,” he said.

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