Sex Education and Faith Communities in the UK: Challenges and Opportunities

g_logo_smPanel Discussion

Thursday – 18 July 2013 – 5pm – 7pm

Donald McIntyre Building, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education

30 May 2013 – Should sex education in schools be as open as possible and or is it best left to families and faith groups? Is there a workable and practicable middle ground? What do these questions mean for education policy and where do the politicians and educators stand?

Sex education has always been a challenging, controversial and politically charged issue for British schools. The increasing cultural and religious diversity of UK society has brought greater complexity to the sex education debate; introducing multiple, and sometimes conflicting interpretations of what constitutes right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate.

BASE (The British Association of Sexual Educators) will host a panel discussion on 18 July 2013 at Cambridge University, Faculty of Education, to discuss these and other questions around the interaction between sex education and faith groups. Organised with the Education, Equality and Development group in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, a panel of leading experts and activists in the field, including representatives from faith groups and sex education charities, will discuss the challenges and opportunities of balancing sex education requirements in schools with the beliefs of faith communities.

The last time this subject was tackled at this level in Cambridge was in 1990 when Homerton College hosted a ground-breaking seminar, “Sex education in the school curriculum: The religious perspective”. Sponsored by Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education and the Islamic Academy, this event demonstrated that different faith groups shared a common concern about sex education but that religious perspectives on the subject were lacking. Since then, new national guidelines emphasising the importance of consulting parents and the wider community have tried to address this situation and help schools plan sex education policy and practice. However, developing religiously tailored and culturally acceptable sex education programmes has proved to be easier said than done. Has 23 years of discussion and policy making opened up the dialogue and encouraged consensus or have opposing positions got more entrenched?

“Britain’s increasing cultural and religious diversity has significantly complicated the national debate around sex education,” said Sue Newsome, psychosexual therapist and Chair of BASE. “But, it would be too simplistic to characterise this as a black and white choice between “sex in the syllabus” and “thou shalt not”. BASE represents sex educators on both sides of the debate, and we hope this seminar will not only stimulate honest debate, but also contribute to building consensus on how to take sex education policy and practice forward. We also intend to make this discussion a focus of BASE’s annual conference in November.”

Speakers at the event will be: Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Brook; Colleen McLaughlin, Professor of Education and Head of the Education Department at the University of Sussex; Yusuf Patel, founder of SREIslamic; Michael Reiss, Anglican priest and Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education, University of London; Audrey Simpson OBE, acting CEO of the Family Planning Association; and Alireza Tabatabaie, medical doctor and specialist in clinical sexology.

For more information on the event and directions go to:


The British Association of Sex Educators (BASE) was established in 2009 to support sex education professionals in their specific professional fields to deliver sex education that is wider than basic information on the prevention of STIs and pregnancy. BASE does this by sharing sexual education information and resources; by promoting an environment of openness and frankness about sex from different perspectives; and encouraging and participating in national debate on sexual issues and policy. BASE holds regular conferences, workshops, seminars and training on sexual health issues covering a broad spectrum of sexual topics.

BASE’s annual conference will be held on 8 November 2013 at Yarnfield Park Training & Conference Centre, Stone, Staffordshire. For more information go to


For information on the panel discussion contact:

Dr. Alireza Tabatabaie

Faculty of Education

Education, Equality and Development group

For information on BASE and on this and other events contact:

Graham Prince

BASE Executive Committee


This entry was posted in BASE, Sex Education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *