Orthodox ready to teach relationships
A NEW proposal to make relationships education compulsory in schools has received initial support from a strictly Orthodox umbrella group.
The National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools (Najos) last month opposed Labour MP Stella Creasy’s move to strengthen teaching of the subject because of fears it might pose problems for some religious schools.
But now, an amended version, proposed by Conservative MP David Burrowes, appears to have allayed Najos’s concerns.
It will be considered as an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, which is going through Parliament.
If accepted, relationships education would become a statutory part of the national curriculum. Pupils would learn about how to recognise a healthy relationship, respect others, handle bullying and understand online safety. It would also ensure they were protected from teaching and materials which are “inappropriate” for their age or religious background. Judith Nemeth, executive director of Najos, said “these amendments ensure that those schools who feel the need to educate their pupils in sex and religious education in its entirety will be able to do so and those who — either for religious reasons or because of parental request —would rather scale it down, will be able to.” She said making relationships education compulsory was “good news for all”. Educating children about healthy relationships was the focus of a day long conference last week convened by Reshet, the cross-communal network for informal educators, which attracted around 100 representatives from
Jewish youth groups, schools and synagogues.
Topics ranged from managing stress to the influence of internet pornography.
In a keynote address, Natasha Devon, co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team, which gives workshops in schools on mental health , said young people were increasingly calling for “information on healthy relationships and consent”.
They wanted information on “the emotional aspects” of relationships, not just the mechanics of sex.
They also wanted to cover “friend- ship as well as romantic relationships — how to have a healthy relationship with their peers and within their friendship groups, and not all to just be focused on the sexual aspect.”
Reshet’s executive director Shelley Marsh said the conference was vital for training educators to support young people.
The Jewish community, she said, was “a microcosm of the wider world. Our young people have the same issues and we are seeing symptoms of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and self-harm in young people increasing.”