SEVERAL national charities and campaign groups have criticised faith schools in East Lancashire that have refused to host workshops from sexual health experts.

Last week, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed the local NHS community education sexual health team has not been given access to any of the Catholic and Muslim secondary schools in Blackburn, while some in other parts of East Lancashire have also declined the sessions.


The team believe their information about contraception is the main reason for the snub, and fear pupils will be more at risk of teenage pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection as a result.

Many of the Catholic schools follow guidance provided by the Diocese of Salford, which says the ‘promotion of safe sex is not helpful’.

But Stephen Evans, campaign manager for the National Secular Society, said: “No school should be allowed to let religious dogma stand in the way of pupils receiving the unbiased information they need.

“As the experience in Blackburn demonstrates, the undue influence of religious groups involved in the running of faith schools is one of the main barriers to the provision of the kind of sex education that is needed to encourage a healthier, more knowledgeable and sexually autonomous younger generation.”

Richy Thompson, education campaigner at the British Humanist Association, said: “Full and comprehensive Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) leads young people to have sex later, to it being more likely to be safe, more likely to be consensual, and consequently to fewer unwanted and teenage pregnancies and lower rates of sexually transmitted infections.

“These are the outcomes that religious groups claim to be seeking.

“So they should realise that such an approach fits best with their world views and hence there is no good reason not to invite the NHS team into schools.”

There is no suggestion any of the schools are failing to adhere to the national curriculum, which requires contraception and some sex and relationship education to be covered under the science agenda.

However, several leading charities and sexual health experts have described this as inadequate.

When it saw a link to the Lancashire Telegraph story posted on Twitter, the sexual health charity Brook replied: “That’s really shocking”.

And although the Terrence Higgins Trust would not comment directly on the schools concerned, acting head of policy Daisy Ellis said: “Covering sex education within a science lesson, which is all that’s required under the national curriculum, just doesn’t cut the mustard.”

The Diocese of Salford guidance adds: “The secular view about sex outside of marriage, contraception, sexually transmitted disease, including HIV and AIDs, and abortion should not be presented as neutral information.

“Only those authorities or agencies that are qualified to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church should be permitted to speak to pupils or individuals on sexual or any other matter involving faith and morals. Any outside authority or agency should be authorised by the head teacher before giving any input in this field.”