February 7, 2023

Wales’ education minister has accused campaigners of pressuring teachers by deliberately spreading “misinformation” about teaching LGBTQ+ issues.

Jeremy Miles also shared how he struggled to find his place in the world as a gay youngster, at a time when “someone like me” didn’t exist in terms of the school curriculum.

Miles said the new Welsh curriculum for relationships and sex education (RSE) would give young people “the knowledge they need to navigate the modern world safely”. He said he hoped this would mean that the introduction of the word “gay” by young people would not be considered an insult on the playground in the future.

Some campaigners opposed to the move claim it “imposes LGBTQ+ education” on all children from the age of three and characterized the curriculum, which is being rolled out, as “awakening” and “dangerous”.

Speaking after campaigners lost a high court ruling against the curriculum, Miles said RSE for the youngest students was about learning how to build positive friendships, build a family life and be kind to each other. He said he was “appalled” that false claims by some campaigners had put additional pressure on schools and staff.

“Some schools and teachers have felt pressure from some parents. We can’t have that. We cannot have campaigners spreading misinformation and taking advantage of parents’ concerns,” Miles said.

“It is very important that the discussion about RSE is based on what really matters, rather than what some campaigners claim. The court has determined that what the activists say is completely unfounded. I hope this gives some reassurance to parents with fears.

“Very young children will be taught about the importance of kindness and friendship, not the kind of things the activists were talking about. The campaigners have used images unrelated to sources used in Wales. The law requires that all education and resources be age appropriate. That has been confirmed by the court.”

Of his experiences at school, Miles said: “Growing up gay in the 1980s, like many, I struggled to find my place in the world. In fact, according to the curriculum at the time, someone like me did not exist – let’s not forget that Article 28 was law until 2003.

“We need a curriculum that recognizes that people and families come in different shapes and sizes, and that hate in all its forms is unacceptable. I want to make sure that the first time someone hears the word “gay,” it’s not like an insult on the playground.

“When I was young, I went through school without having my own identity, my own feelings reflected me in any way. We don’t want young people in Wales to have that experience today.”

Miles, 51, said “sex education” was limited to one specific lesson when he was at school in the Swansea Valley. “It was often brought with embarrassment and received with giggles. We learned the names of body parts, that sex resulted in pregnancy, and very little about safety. Most of us had to figure out the rest ourselves,” he said.

“The previous national curriculum was introduced in 1988. Before the invention of the internet, before we fully understood the importance of mental health, and before many of the advances in equality and respect that we might take for granted.”

Miles said Wales had taken a “unique approach” by legislating so that all pupils have access to these lessons and, rather than being taught in isolation, they are integrated into the curriculum.

“RSE now has the same approach as any other subject; it is as essential to a student’s education as math or science,” he said.

The group that led the lawsuit against the high court curriculum, Public Child Protection Wales, has said it will appeal the ruling and continues to argue that it exposes children to “serious dangers”.

The group has also argued that the Labour-led government is wrong not to allow parents to take their children out of RSE classes which they consider “completely inappropriate” and run counter to “religious and philosophical beliefs”.

The Conservatives in Wales have supported the right of parents to withdraw their children from RSE classes if they feel the content is not appropriate for their age.

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