Faith Considerations - Writing SRE Guidance

Tower Hamlets local authority decided to produce local guidelines for schools on the teaching of sex and relationships when it was realised in 2003 that many schools in the borough did not have a current SRE policy. In some schools, the policy had not been recently reviewed or up-dated; in other schools there appeared never to have been a policy. From the outset it was emphasised that information about the attitudes of the major faith groups represented in the borough needed to be included.

There were two phases to the writing of the Guidelines:

1. Consultation with schools and others, including faith group representatives, in the initial writing; and
2. Further consultation with local bodies and LA committees once a draft document had been produced.

A series of meeting was arranged with members of the local Bangladeshi Muslim community to explain what was being done and to identify that community's needs, requests and views on SRE. Similar exchanges took place with the education officer of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster whose geographical area included the borough. Content on the Anglican perspective was developed through telephone conversations with education advisers of the CofE Diocese of London.

These discussions, which extended over a year, helped the Healthy Schools Team and faith representatives to better understand the expectations and requirements of school sex and relationships education; and to clarify the contexts, content and outcomes of school programmes.

They also helped to clarify:
• The educational role of schools in delivering sex and relationships education
• The opportunities for including aspects of faith opinions and principles in religious education lessons in schools
• The part played in SRE of encouraging young people to use a science-based vocabulary for body parts and functions
• The ways in which school programmes of SRE can support and guide parents regarding appropriate social and developmental interest and awareness of sex and sexuality by young people
• That children and young people in Tower Hamlets schools are living in a pluralist society and that school lessons, including those forming part of SRE programmes, reflect that reality

The discussions also served to establish good professional relationships between the groups and organisations involved.

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This case-study was first published in the Government Office for London SRE core curriculum for London in 2009 and has been updated for publication by the  Sex Education Forum in 2010.