The main role of the Children’s Commissioner for Wales is to protect the welfare and rights of children, as laid out under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The Children’s Commissioner for Wales strongly supports the inclusion of compulsory Relationships and Sexuality Education in the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021.
This law is one element that will help ensure a much-needed process in Wales to make sure all children and young people receive high quality opportunities to develop their understanding of relationships and sexuality. This will help empower children and young people with the understanding and skills they need to make safe, informed choices.
Effective and high quality Relationships and Sexuality Education [RSE] will help ensure children and young people experience their rights under the UNCRC, including:
- the right to non-discrimination (Article 2)
- the right to be heard, express opinions and be involved in decision-making (Article 12);
- the right to access information that will allow children to make decisions about health (Article 17)
- the right to experience the highest attainable health, access to health facilities, preventative health care, and family planning education and services (Article 24)
- the right to an education that support all children to develop and reach their full potential and prepare children to be understanding and tolerant to others (Article 29)
- the right to government protection from sexual abuse and exploitation (Article 34).
The law is just one of the changes needed to make sure that children and young people do receive this important, human-rights based education. There must also be professional learning to support teachers to plan effective and developmentally-appropriate RSE. This must all be supported by clear guidance that sets out appropriate learning for children at different stages. There also needs to be lots of new resources that professionals can draw upon to work with young people and their school community to develop learning.
When schools and other education settings develop their own learning in this area, they will need to have clear communications with families so that they are informed about what and how children are learning. There should also be opportunities for children, young people and their families to participate in local curriculum design.
Families will always have an essential role in the education of their child, and this will include supporting children to understand relationships and sexuality. Education in school will not replace this learning, but will exist alongside it to ensure that all children and young people develop their understanding of healthy relationships, equality, safety, wellbeing and their rights.
You can find out more about the Commissioner’s position in the written evidence submitted to the Children, Young People and Education Committee in their Stage 1 scrutiny of the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.
The Commissioner has also responded to the 2021 consultation on the draft RSE Code and Guidance. The response outlines some strengths of the draft guidance and some key ways it can improve, including:
- Ensuring children and young people participate in the re-drafting of the guidance;
- Ensuring there is sufficient support from experts in RSE in the re-drafting process to bring it in line with UNESCO technical guidance.
- Ensuring the guidance includes more focus on sexual health and rights and equity.
- Ensuring the development of guidance happens in the context of progression on each of the 11 recommendations of the SRE expert panel and is accompanied by associated professional learning and resource development.
- Noted that additional support is needed to put the RSE curriculum into the context of a whole school approach to RSE. This approach should have the participation of young people at its core. It should encompass the wider approach of the setting in development of school policies and practice (for example around uniform, safeguarding, handling allegations, sport and PE provision, participation in decision making etc), it should also link to the wider system of public and third sector support, so that learning can link to information about where children and young people can obtain confidential advice, counselling, and treatment.
The Commissioner’s Advisory Panel of Young People have also submitted their response to the consultation. You can read their full response here: