Pupils should be taught value of abstinence and celibacy, says Church of England

The value of abstinence and celibacy should be taught to pupils in sex education as part of an approach that helps them turn away from a 'distorted' view of sex and develop 'dignity and respect,' the Church of England has said.

In its submission to the government's planned overhaul of relationships and sex education (RSE), the Church also said that lessons in its schools will focus on 'the Christian understanding of marriage as the context for sexual relationships'.

The Church's chief education officer, the Rev Nigel Genders, wrote in a blog that schools should teach students about 'healthy relationships and lifestyle choices'.

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He said: 'Healthy relationships and sex are good gifts from God and should bring joy. That's the starting point for our response to the government's call for evidence on the changes to teaching...RSE.'

Genders went on to say: 'In Church of England schools, RSE will be rooted in the teachings of the Church, including the importance of trust, loyalty, fidelity and the Christian understanding of marriage as the context for sexual relationships, as well as the understanding of abstinence and celibacy as positive life choices.'

Introducing the Church's response to the government's planned overhaul, 'rooted in our experience of providing education for one million children in our schools and working with children and young people in voluntary groups across the country', Genders said: 'In all these settings, what young people most desire from RSE is to learn about securing, developing and sustaining healthy relationships and knowing to recognise when and how relationships go wrong.

'Children want to be prepared for the opportunities, joys, challenges and responsibilities of being in relationship with other people. RSE must provide the understanding, vocabulary and strategies children need to keep themselves safe and to thrive within good relationships of all kinds. It should give children accurate information to equip them for life in the modern world and make sure they are not harmed or negatively influenced by unrealistic or dangerous materials and expectations.

'Our desire is for young people to flourish and to gain every opportunity to live fulfilled lives and RSE should teach about healthy relationships and lifestyle choices.

'Schools will be encouraged to reflect their own ethos and values whilst being sensitive to the needs of the community, including the context of belief, faith, religion and culture...In partnership with parents, schools have a vital role to play in the formation of our children. Taking that responsibility seriously means we are not prepared to leave their development to the distorted representations of sex and relationships that are just a few clicks away on their phones and computers, but will actively promote staying safe, developing healthy relationships, and protecting self-esteem and good mental health. That's what good RSE should aim for as it contributes to an education that develops dignity and respect.'

The consultation response also expresses concerns that 'unacceptable material' could be studied by children whose parents withdraw them from the classes.

It says: 'The DfE must make it clear who is responsible for the supervision of withdrawn pupils and who is responsible for providing alternative work.

'If alternative work is to be set by parents or carers, accessible and comprehensive guidelines on what is acceptable to set must be issued.

'In RE we have had issues where pupils have been found to be studying inappropriate material sent in by parents. The potential for unacceptable material set as an alternative sex education programme is a real concern.'

The government's consultation closed last month. It was launched following concerns that sex and relationships teaching in schools was outdated and did not cover issues such as the risks of the internet and 'sexting'.

Lifestyle