Consultation on sex education in schools is a “sham”

Loch-a-Tuath councillor Calum Maclean said he had been contacted by "concerned parents".Loch-a-Tuath councillor Calum Maclean said he had been contacted by "concerned parents".
Loch-a-Tuath councillor Calum Maclean said he had been contacted by "concerned parents".
An out-spoken critic of the policy of sex education in schools has described the latest attempt by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on consultation as a “sham” and a “whitewash”, writes local democracy reporter Peter Urpeth.

​Councillor Calum MacLean of the Loch-a-Tuath ward in Lewis emailed the council’s head of education, Donald Macleod, stating that he was contacted by “some concerned parents” who had alerted him to the document on the teaching of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting in schools and early learning settings.

Cllr MacLean alleges that the preamble, which defines the scope of the exercise, gives parents a chance to express their views on the “process around the delivery” of the policy – but, crucially, excludes any opportunity to comment on the actual “content” of what will be delivered in lessons.

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In a statement Cllr MacLean stated: “If the concerns of parents are relating to the ‘content’ of the material, why are [the Education Department] consulting on the ‘process’?

“The process is straightforward – you either withdraw your child or not! Surely if you are withdrawing your child it is because of “content!”

In his e-mail to Mr MacLeod, Cllr MacLean states that he believes the council are deliberately preventing parents from making their feelings known on the delivery of sex education in schools.

“After reading, and rereading this directive to parents and carers in what should have been an open and transparent consultation, I must say that this is the very opposite and not what elected members would have envisaged when they agreed to that report in April 2023, which clearly stated that further consultation in respect of RSHP in Lewis Schools be carried out,” he said.

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“To my mind, what the education department clearly wants is for parents to be consulted solely on ‘process’ and not ‘content’. This is a clear breach of democratic protocol and a total disregard for the views of parents, carers and elected members alike.”

He added: “It was the content of the revised RSHP resources – i.e. the age and stage inappropriate and unsuitable nature of these for certain young children – that provoked the concerns over RSHP in the first place throughout our communities.

“Now, the Education Department is attempting to deny an opinion on content to parents, carers and others in our communities! I find this totally unacceptable!”

Back in April, councillors commended’ the use of education materials for RSHP lessons produced by the Scottish Catholic Education Service for use in schools in the Western Isles, after a number of members raised their concerns.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was asked for comment, none had been received at the time of going to press.