The Labour Party has renewed a pledge to introduce statutory Sex and Relationships Education – after the government blocked progress on the issue.
Parliament’s Education Select Committee last year recommended that inclusive sex and relationship education (SRE) should become a statutory requirement in all schools as part of PSHE – but the government rejected the plans last month, with sources suggesting a rift in the Cabinet on the issue.
Labour has renewed a push on the issue today, calling for statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) in schools – including age-appropriate SRE.
It comes as figures show that a growth in the use of camera-equipped smartphones has led to a growth in sexting and the trading of explicit images among under-16s – with figures obtained via Freedom of Information requests showing a 1200 percent rise in incidents between 2013 and 2015.
Labour’s plans include updating the guidance for sex and relationship education – which has not been amended since 2000 – in order to reflect legislative advances such as equal marriage, as well as the issues surrounding modern technology.
In a blog for PinkNews, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell MP made clear the party was committed to reform.
The Shadow Minister said: “Every day we are seeing more evidence that access to new media and technology is creating new and unprecedented risks for young people.
“Yet David Cameron refuses to act and the last time guidance for schools was published was before the smartphone generation were even born.
“Youngsters are being pushed into adult territory well before they are ready.
“Sexting among children is skyrocketing, they are easily straying into sinister corners of the internet leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, and shockingly children as young as 13 are starting to use dating and hook-up apps.”
She continued: “Far more needs to be done to equip young people with the resilience and knowledge they need to stay healthy and safe in relationships both off and online, and to spot the signs and feel confident to report manipulation and exploitation.
“If we fail to take action and support our young people with these issues now, there is a real chance this could impact school work and limit opportunities later down the line.
“So it is only right that there is dedicated time in the curriculum for providing young people with the information and knowledge that will help to keep them healthy and safe.
“Yet, time and time again the Tories have refused to make Personal Social Health and Economic education, the subject that could act as the vehicle for this information, compulsory in all state-funded schools. If David Cameron refuses to act on this issue, it will be one of the first things Labour does in government.”