The chief executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT) has welcomed calls by the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper for statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education in schools and says it could help in the fight against ever rising HIV infections.
In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who is also the Shadow Equalities Minister, urged for the government to make PSHE a statutory requirement and said “it is a big mistake” not to do so.
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, NAT Chief Executive Deborah Jack said: “We agree with Yvette Cooper’s statement that SRE (Sex and Relationship Education) should be compulsory in all schools. Ipos Mori research commissioned by NAT found 85% of people believe young people should be taught about HIV in schools so they have a good understanding of the condition by the time they leave.
“Currently SRE is left in the hands of individual schools and teachers, leading to a inconsistent approach which has left 1 in 4 young people not learning anything about HIV at school and nearly half of all young people claiming they haven’t learnt all they needed to know about HIV and AIDS.”
Ms Jack continued: “This lack of commitment to teaching HIV in schools is evident in the rising number of young people being diagnosed with HIV – a shocking increase of 70% in the past ten years.
“We also want to see SRE which takes into account the needs and experiences of all young people and include appropriate and sensitive discussion of same-sex relationships.”
Ms Jack added: “Gay and bisexual men remain the population group most likely to acquire HIV in the UK. The latest figures show in 2012 there was more new HIV diagnosis among gay and bisexual men in a single year than ever before, while new diagnoses among young gay and bisexual men have doubled in the past ten years.
“HIV education therefore needs to contain clear, sensitive and sensible messages on sexual health, HIV and same-sex relationships that meet the needs of all young people.”
Labour has tabled an amendment to the Children and Families Bill which could make issues such as equality, abuse awareness and same-sex relationships a compulsory part of the curriculum under PSHE. The amendment will be voted on by MPs on Tuesday.
However, the amendment is unlikely to receive support from the government.
Last month, a report by Ofsted showed more than a third of schools in England are failing to provide pupils with age-appropriate sex and relationship education.
Too few teachers have the expertise to discuss issues such as sexuality and domestic violence, the schools watchdog warned.
In primary schools, the report said, too much emphasis is placed on friendships and relationships when teaching sex and relationship education and this can leave pupils ill-prepared for the physical and emotional changes of puberty.
Also in secondary schools, too much emphasis is placed on the “mechanics” of reproduction rather than the importance of healthy sexual relationships.
A Department for Education spokesman at the time said: “The quality of PSHE teaching is not good enough.
“Our curriculum reforms have given teachers the freedom to tailor their teaching so it meets the needs of their pupils.
“We are funding the PSHE Association to work with schools to develop curricula and improve the way it is taught.
“The best people to fix this problem are teachers on the ground – not politicians in Westminster.”