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 proposals for the teaching of Relationships and Sexuality Education in the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.
New law is needed in Wales to support Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). This 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 give children and young people the understanding they need to make safe, informed choices.
The new law will help make sure 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).
It is important to note that changing 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. Welsh Government is expecting to publish new draft guidance for this in 2021. 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.