Parents opposed to teaching young children about gender identity and sex in primary schools across Wales have lost a legal challenge to stop a new curriculum.
Campaigners against the Welsh Government’s new Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum, which comes into effect next week, sought a High Court injunction to prevent the policy being taught to children from the age of seven.
They wanted a judge to order a temporary ban until a judicial review into the curriculum is heard later this year, or an opt-out for parents to remove their children from the mandatory classes.
But a High Court judge refused the application, saying the claimants did not show any evidence of their children being harmed during the injunction period.
“Apart from the generalised objections at the root of this claim, the evidence does not actually identify whether between now and the date of the hearing in November 2022 any of the claimants’ children will be taught anything to which the claimants object,” Mrs Justice Tipples said.
“Leading on from that, there’s also no evidence before the court as to what, if any, harm it is said the claimants or any of their children are likely to suffer in the event the injunction sought is not granted.”
The judge also said the court could not order the Welsh Government to excuse individual children from the curriculum because there is no legislative authority to do so and criticised the delay in seeking the injunction.
“There was no justification for the claimants to make this application in August 2022. This application should have been made, as is normal practice, when this claim was filed in April 2022,” she said.
“The claimants knew the RSE implementation was certain to happen in June 2022, yet they sat on their hands for a period of eight weeks until this application was issued.
“There is no explanation at all for that delay, yet as time has marched on the potential for administrative inconvenience has only increased.
“There is a very strong public interest in the implementation of the code and the guidance, which is a consequence of the legislative decisions of the Welsh Parliament is not one the court should interfere with, and I agree the status quo is for this process to continue.
“There will be very substantial disruption and very many schools and children affected if relief was granted.
“There is nothing in the claimants’ evidence that any of the three children to whom RSE will be taught in the 2022/23 academic year will suffer any harm, yet alone any irreparable harm.
“The claimants have had ample time to gather this evidence, yet their application is founded on unparticularised assertions and that is not good enough.”
The legal challenge was brought by Public Child Protection Wales, which said the RSE curriculum is inappropriate for primary age children.
Paul Diamond, representing the claimants, said they were four mothers and a father “fighting for their children as any parent would”.
“They feel weak, powerless and believe it is a David versus Goliath conflict, but children are often their only legacy in life,” he said.
“There has been a shift in the liberal order, the right of individuals to choose their own good life without state interference to now a requirement that people and individuals and private organisations must have the same views endorsed by the state.
“The question is whether we have a free, open tolerant society, or, we say, an extremist, intolerant, almost totalitarian society imposed by the state.
“It will result in societal breakdown and will result in authoritarianism and that is why this case raises wider issues.
“Our society is consumed with irrational ideologies, a lack of tolerance and cancel culture. There is an atmosphere of fear and lack of free speech and a culture without freedom.”
He added: “They don’t want to go to court, they don’t want to go down this route, they just want to protect their children.
“They believe their children and other children would be irreparably damaged – especially vulnerable children.
“It is a question of children and parents’ rights. It is going to shift the balance between the state and parents. This is just the beginning. Who runs the children, the parents or the state?”
Mrs Justice Tipples ordered the claimants to pay £12,000 towards the cost of the Welsh Government defending the injunction application.
A judicial review hearing will take place over two days from November 15 before Mrs Justice Steyn.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “The High Court has refused an application from a campaign group to withdraw their children from Relationships and Sexuality Education in September.
“All schools which are rolling out the curriculum from September will teach RSE in a developmentally appropriate way as required by the legislation.
“This means all learners in these schools will receive RSE, which is critical to keeping them safe.
“We are unable to comment on the wider legal matters as they will be dealt with in proceedings in the High Court.
“We remain confident our reforms are proportionate and lawful, and we reiterate that the claims this group makes in its literature have absolutely no basis or evidence whatsoever.”