One day, Clare Page’s 15 year-old daughter returned home from school reporting that a recent sex education lesson – which was supposed to be about consent – had taught that ‘heteronormativity’ is harmful and ‘sex positivity’ is a good thing.
Clare was understandably alarmed. The Education Act 1996 imposes a duty on schools “to prevent political indoctrination and secure the balanced treatment of political issues”, and this was a clear example of a contested – and indeed harmful – ideology being presented to her daughter as fact.
The lesson was provided by a charity called School of Sexuality Education (SoSE), which at the time had what Clare describes as “inappropriately explicit lesson plans” on its website, including links to a private company “which advertises sex toys, pornography and anal masturbation techniques to young people”.
Wanting to know more about what her daughter was being taught and the details of any link to websites promoting such things, Clare made a Freedom of Information request to the school. She was shocked when it was declined on grounds of commercial secrecy for the charity and privacy for the teacher.
Clare then referred the case to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and in a landmark decision that made national headlines, the ICO backed the school’s choice to keep the lesson details secret from parents, effectively prioritising the commercial interest of an education charity over parents’ right to know what their children are being taught.
Clare believes the ICO made an unlawful decision that fails in respect of the school’s public service duties, compromises safeguarding and undermines the trust that is essential to education.
She is now planning to appeal the decision at a tribunal, with the aim of overturning the ICO’s decision and establishing a ruling that the lesson resources used by schools should be fully accessible to parents, and that commercial interests should not override the rights of parents.
You can donate to Clare Page’s legal crowdfunder here.