Wednesday 5 September 2012

"Shocked to the core": Parents' and Carers' Views on the Teaching of SRE in Catholic Schools

This guest blog has been sent to us by Georgie, one of our young volunteers, who is currently undertaking academic research into Catholic parents’ reactions to their children’s sex education.

The Catholic Church promotes sexual activity only within marriage, with the purpose of procreation. Therefore, Catholicism does not endorse lesbian, gay or bisexual sexual identities, abortion or the use of contraception. In principle it is at the discretion of a parent whether their child receives SRE at school due to their right to withdraw. So, do parent/carers want their children to be taught about SRE in school? If so, do they want it to be taught from the Catholic point of view or an unbiased perspective?

I decided to investigate this further for my Masters dissertation by conducting a small number of in depth interviews with the parents and carers of young people who attended Catholic schools. The SPUC  ‘Safe at School’ campaign which states; ‘parents are worried that contraception and abortion services are being promoted in secondary schools' was challenged by the findings from my research.

Overall, I found that these parents disagreed with the current teaching of SRE in Catholic schools and felt that all children have a right to unbiased and fact-based information in SRE. Unsurprisingly, the topic of abortion arose on a number of occasions during each interview. It seemed parents kept returning to this subject to explain or evidence their opinions/experiences.

One interviewee felt that only parents should teach certain topics within SRE because of an experience she had where her daughter was shown a ‘graphic’ anti-abortion video* at her Catholic secondary  school;

I just remember one of my daughters coming home and breaking their heart and saying…“I can’t believe what’s been shown to me”…they showed my daughters a video about abortion that shocked them to the core but I wasn’t aware they were going to do that. (Theresa )

A second parent agreed:

I think it should be everybody’s own choice, it is up to the individuals, not up to pro-life groups to say no… I think it’s unfair, obviously I know you send them to a religious school and that is part of the religion but I still think it’s your choice. Because you’re a Catholic you know it’ll be pro-life, you know abortion is wrong… but there are extenuating circumstances which they won’t even look at …one is rape and… you do have a choice, it is your body. (Linda)
Another parent agreed that SRE should provide impartial information and suggested a joint effort by all those involved in teaching SRE that would be beneficial for young people;

I believe that children are entitled to the full facts when it comes to sex education including contraception and abortion. If they are guided by their parents, parish and school in a caring way to lead their life according to a Christian ethos then these adults should have confidence that their wonderful children will be capable of making the right moral choices when the time comes. (Helen)

I found parents of children attending Catholic schools to be no different to other parents; they feel their children should be entitled to unbiased information and the ‘full facts' about abortion and sex and relationships in general. These parents' opinions echo those of young peoples'; reinforcing the demand for compulsory SRE in state schools, including Catholic schools. Consequently, teaching materials used in SRE would need to be the same in Catholic and non-faith schools. This would result in the graphic, biased and (often) misinformed materials currently being used in some Catholic schools being abandoned and no more young people being adversely "shocked to the core."
*I later found out that the film shown was 'The Silent Scream'.

1 comment:

  1. As a Catholic mother, i do not agree with graphic videos or pictures of abortion being shown to children, Children need to have sex ed, again not too graphic, which it unfortunately is, As parents we all have different views, Why can we not have our choices listened to, my children are in catholic schools for a reason, I do not want my children being told abortion is OK, it is not IMO,