Government urged to make sex education inclusive and mandatory
The government is reviewing the future of sex and relationship education – after an influential Parliamentary committee urged the government to update guidance to reflect the modern era.
In a recent report, the Women and Equalities Committee looked at the shocking prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.
The report highlighted poor sex education as a key contributing factor, with sex ed guidance – last updated 16 years ago – failing to address many modern issues.
The committee, chaired by Conservative former Culture Secretary Maria Miller, urged the government to “immediately update its guidance on SRE” to reflect 2016 technology and concerns, and to “make SRE a statutory subject”.
In its response this month, the government confirmed the issue was under review.
Ministers confirmed: “We will look at how what is taught in PSHE and SRE can fit into a whole school approach and reflected in codes of practice.
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“We are conscious that the existing SRE guidance was last updated in 2000 and the case for further action on PSHE and SRE delivery is actively under review, with particular consideration to improving quality and accessibility.”
Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Sarah Champion said: “The Government must bring in legislation to ensure every school takes action to prevent and respond effectively to sexual harassment and sexual violence.
“The findings of the committee demonstrate that the Government’s failure to do so is putting children and teenagers in the way of physical and psychological harm.”
Mrs Miller said: “The Government needs to prioritise action to ensure sex and relationship education reflects the realities of the 21st century rather than the pre-smartphone age when guidance was last updated.”
The committee added: “We welcome the Government’s response that the status of PSHE and SRE is currently under review. We recommend that PSHE and SRE are made statutory subjects as part of the new Education Bill.”
“Excellent resources to teach children and young people about gender equality, relationships, sex and consent, in age-appropriate ways, already exist. But at the moment only a minority of schools are delivering good teaching in this area.
“The Government must take a lead in ensuring that all children have access to high quality sex and relationships education (SRE) and it does not remain the privilege of a few.
“Making SRE a statutory subject is the first step towards achieving this. The vast majority of parents, pupils and teachers support statutory PSHE/SRE, as do health professionals, the police and other experts working in the field.”