A great deal of work has been done recently on values education for children and teenagers in schools. However, parents in several parts of the UK have found much of the material presented in our schools to be explicit, wrong and to actually encourage sin. Here we set out some clear principles to help parents and protect their children from being given inappropriate information and guidance.

Remember, parents are the prime educators and protectors of their children in matters of family life.

So, parents must
  1. Know exactly what material is to be offered to their children.
  2. Be able to comment upon this material
  3. Opt in (or out of) programmes as they wish.
To understand what is (and is not) appropriate, read the definitive Vatican document “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality” (TMS). We are delighted to hear that at least one diocese has now agreed that TMS is the central document for such school based packages.

Here, we provide some information on ‘teenage values education’ and also a checklist which parents can use when assessing the value of educational packages offered to our teenagers. Parents who are concerned about packages in their children’s schools may contact us-please send an email to INSERT ADDRESS

Teenage moral values education

You will be very aware that the issue of teenage pregnancy has provided headline news for many years and a great deal of work has gone into trying to reduce teenage sexual activity and pregnancy. It is, of course, the case that pregnancy is not the only adverse effect of teenage sexual activity. As well as sexually transmitted diseases, there are also the issues of lifelong success in stable marriage, as well as stable parenting of future generations. (For more information, see the page on Human Life, Love and Marriage -- A Total Vision of Man and Married Love.) Many parents have been told of school education packages that
  1. The school nurse is ‘Catholic’
  2. The diocese is happy with the package
  3. It supports Catholic values
Not always! Several programmes of which this has been said are fundamentally un-Catholic and harmful. Such reassurances should not be taken at face value therefore.

Parents are the primary educators of children in these matters[1] and it is therefore the policy of the Catholic Church that schools should fully involve parents in these ventures. Where children are taught in school
  1. they should be taught with sexes separated.
  2. education should focus on values and issues of marriage
  3. biological explanations should be limited and not the key focus of work.
A fierce debate has raged between those who promote discussion of biological matters and promotion of value free discussion, with knowledge of condoms and those who have felt that educational initiative should be more solidly based upon value discussion and life-time planning. In the United States a widespread adoption of values-based education programmes has been associated with positive outcomes. For example, in one scheme in Monroe County, New York, research showed that such a programme had a positive impact. After three years of teaching 9-14 year-olds, the number of students saying they had sex by the age of 15 fell from 47 to 32 per cent, while the pregnancy rates among 15 to 17-year-old girls fell faster than in surrounding counties. (Source: Journal of Health Communication) [2] In contrast, the promotion of contraception and condoms to teenage children in the UK has led to a small rise in abortion under the 1967 Act but a huge rise in pregnancies terminated by the use of the morning after pill.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have said that the aim of chastity education “is to nurture the virtue of chastity”. [3] It is therefore right that parents of children in schools where biologically- based education programmes are favoured should be concerned. Some of these programmes include description of male and female organs at primary school levels; others try to suggest that masturbation is harmless and to be encouraged. Videos have been shown to primary school children, which talk of intercourse “when you feel ready”. School nurses employed outside of the school are given confidential access to young children - and their parents may be unable to know exactly what has been said discussed or prescribed. Parents are the primary protectors of their children. [4] Parents have the absolute right to withdraw their children from programmes which they believe are unsuitable. They do not have to give reasons for doing this -- and it is our duty to support them. As Pope Pius XI said “Conscientious parents, aware of their duty in the matter of education, have a primary and original right to determine the education of the chil dren given to them by God in the spirit of the true faith and in agreement with its principles and ordinances. Laws or other regulations concerning schools that disregard the rights of parents guaranteed to them by the natural law, or by threat and violence nullify those rights, contradict the natural law and are utterly and essentially immoral.” [5] Schools are obliged to support parents, and allow them to withdraw their children from teaching about which they are concerned.

Parents must be fully informed of the content of schools’ education packages. At the same time, parents may be advised about how better to discuss these matters with their children. A great deal has been said about the problems of communication with children on these issues and such an invitation will go a long way to supporting parents in discussing these issues.

The American Government Department of Health and Human Services has advised [6] that parents and other adult mentors must play key roles in encouraging young adults –and that abstinence and personal responsibility must be the primary messages of prevention programs [although along with chastity we emphasise the centrality of marriage]. The UK Government has also said that values based education is crucial. In January 2004 we read this newspaper headline: “Children should be told to say ‘No’ to sex to help stop the spread of infections,” a Government agency said.[1]

Parents’ values and hopes are traditional which is why they want the best for their children. There is therefore, no reason why schools should exclude them from the process of values education.

For further information, see our website and the references listed there.


  1. Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality
  2. Journal of Health communication Volume 6, Number 1 January-March 2001 and
  3. Catholic bishops conference of England and Wales
  4. "Mit Brennender Sorge", Pope Pius XI
  5. "Mit Brennender Sorge", Pope Pius XI