Butler Responds to Concerns Surrounding the Introduction of RSE

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Butler Responds to Concerns Surrounding the Introduction of RSE

In response to concerns surrounding the introduction of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), UUP Education Spokesperson Robbie Butler MLA said:

“As the Ulster Unionist Party’s Education Spokesperson, I have been recently contacted with concerns surrounding the potential content and introduction of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) as directed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

“With the Secretary of State's (SoS) recent comments regarding his ambition and priority to introduce compulsory RSE in line with the United Nation’s specifications, concerns that this would lead to some controversial and age-inappropriate content have been raised.

“I want to be clear that the Ulster Unionist Party seeks to uphold the rights of children as detailed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Whilst not embedded locally, these rights provide the best set of agreed guidelines for children's rights. The UNCRC clearly indicates with articles 28 and 29 that children should have access to appropriate education which includes aspects such as RSE. Article 5 insists that parents have the authority to act in the best interests of their children in an age-appropriate manner. Some suggestions being put forward as potential UN-compliant content are NOT age-appropriate nor useful for any child of primary school age.

“The lack of government between 2017-20 and 2022-23 has failed our children at almost every level. In particular, the trauma caused by failure to lead transformation in education and Health & Social Care will be measured by the direct impacts on people's lives. A creaking education system has become burdensome in terms of its construction and sectorisation. Teachers and leaders who are not paid fairly and in line with their UK counterparts and, most importantly, our children, who bear the brunt of brutal financial cuts that this year has seen our Special Education children, will suffer the most significant negative impact.  As always, it happens here in Northern Ireland, that without a local Assembly and Executive, the Secretary of State reserves the powers and right to universally implement legislation that should only be the remit of devolved local legislators. The implementation of the most radical abortion legislation on these Islands by the SoS came about due to a failure of local legislators to be in place, which is unfortunately nothing new.

“The initial research that we have conducted suggests that much of what has been reported is speculation without evidence; however, this is only somewhat comforting. Any new RSE curriculum must be created with the input of parents, children and teaching professionals from Northern Ireland only and not by bureaucrats or civil servants from London. I have contacted the Department of Education for an urgent update, in addition to the SoS, to ensure that it is not his intent to facilitate an overreach on the previously undertaken work. Local stakeholders have already put massive work into creating a fit-for-purpose RSE model that would require buy-in from children and their parents, particularly by consultation. 

“Most importantly, the best way to ensure that our children get the best start to life and the most appropriate education is through a local Assembly at Stormont. This is where these matters should and would be debated with a greater chance to ensure that all the children of Northern Ireland benefit, are equipped for life and have access to the broadest and fit-for-purpose curriculum that we can create.”