On Monday 3 November, the Humanist Society Scotland launched a campaign to reform the way RSHPE (Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education) is taught in schools. The guidance, which was last reviewed after the repeal of Section 2A, was now – in the wake of the introduction of marriage equality – to be again reviewed.

We welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the new guidance, but along with a list of other organisations, were concerned when the Scottish Government published their ‘draft’ guidance last year.

Of the many concerns raised by us, and other organisations, was the ease at which it was possible for teachers, pupils and parents to opt-out of the guidance. There was no mention on the rights of children, and no mention of LGBTI relationships – despite the evidence showing that 52% of LGBTI young people in Scotland experience direct bullying.

We decided, in partnership with a range of other individuals and organisations (see below), to launch a campaign to do something about it. We started a campaign calling upon the Scottish Government to:

  1. Ensure that ALL young Scots have access to high quality evidence-based RSHPE.
  2. Request that all Scottish schools work cooperatively with local health boards.
  3. Increase the opportunities for training and support available to teachers who deliver RSHPE.
  4. Commit to ensure LGBTI relationship and sex education is available to all young people; and
  5. Recognise the rights of children to make their own decisions about accessing RSHPE.

Since launching our campaign, we have had encouraging discussions with the Liberal Democrat Party, Scottish Green Party and Scottish Labour Party.

The need for change is well established. However, recent press attention in The Herald and BBC Radio Scotland’s Morning Call have resorted to a tired and unrepresentative ‘debate’ with representatives from the Scottish Catholic Education Service.

Our campaign, and our petition are not designed to be anti-Catholic or to target Catholic schools. We believe that all young Scottish citizens, regardless of their religion or belief, or the religion or belief of their parents, should have access to RSHPE.

We believe that high quality, up-to-date education in relation to sexual health, relationships and parenthood is essential for a 21st Century education.

Scotland has a new Education Minister appointed, Angela Constance, who we have today written to and expect to meet with education officials early next week. It looks like the new revised guidance will be issued early in December.


The following is a list of people who publicly supported our campaign:


Christopher Brookmyre, Humanist Society Scotland President and Scottish Crime Writer
“We expect our children to have the best available resources and information at their disposal when it comes to their education, and this should be doubly true for an aspect of their education that is vital to their future physical and mental health.”


Zara Kitson, Co-convener of Young Scottish Greens
“We cannot leave it up to the pornography industry to provide sex and relationship education to young people.”


Julian Baggini, Humanist Philosopher
“Good sex education is not propaganda, but clear information which we can’t assume children will get at home.”


Lesley Riddoch, Journalist and Author
“The Humanist campaign reminds us that sex education is an invaluable source of information for young adults.”


Patrick Harvie, MSP for Glasgow and Co-convener of Scottish Greens
“All young people deserve a right to inclusive, evidence-based education on relationships, sexual health and parenthood.”


Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Justice
“It is time for all children in Scotland to be given access to a programme of sexual health and relationships education.”


David Green, MSYP for Skye Lochaber & Badenoch
“Informing young Scots empowers them to build responsible and healthy relationships that they choose.”


Dr Claire Cassidy, Depute Head of Education, University of Strathclyde
“All children have the right to seek and access information. This is crucial for their sexual health and well-being.”


Ross McCulloch, Director of Third Sector Lab
“Schools provide age-appropriate maths and English lessons. Relationships, sexual health and parenthood education should be no different.”


Stuart Valentine, Chief Executive of Relationships Scotland
“Relationships define who we are. It’s vital that all young people have access to relationships, sexual health and parenthood education.”


Euan Davidson, President of Liberal Youth Scotland
“Without a compulsory comprehensive curriculum, schools simply won’t tackle vital issues like LGBT health and consent.”


Douglas McLellan, Humanist Society Scotland Chief Executive
“Access to age-appropriate sex education is a human right for all young Scots.”


Louise Cameron MSYP, Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament
“Personal Social Education is vital to young people’s future in order to keep them safe and protected, and we must prioritise making this available to all young people in an effective and up to date manner. Matters like consent, LGBT rights and mental health are often forgotten about and in some schools PSE is not present at all. We need to highlight this, act on it and provide young people in Scotland with the best rounded education possible.”


Jack Fletcher, Sexpression:UK (N.b. Sepxression:UK currently has a petition submitted to the Scottish Parliament: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/MakeSREstatutoryInScotland)

“Sexpression:UK supports the Humanist Society Scotland campaign for better sex and relationships education (SRE) in Scotland. We have petitioned for compulsory SRE in Scotland this year and firmly believe that SRE is a vital human right for the children and young people to be taught these subjects. Being able to make a informed and healthy decision in regards to your own and others sexual health and well-being is crucial and SRE is the best way to achieve that aim.”