Sex and relationships education could be made compulsory in all schools under new Government plans
Sex and relationships education (SRE) could be made compulsory in all schools under new government plans, despite being dropped earlier this year.
Back in February, former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said she would continue to “review” the issue of compulsory, inclusive SRE in all schools, but rejected calls for the classes to be made compulsory.
Parliament’s Education Select Committee last year recommended that inclusive SRE should become a statutory requirement in all schools as part of PSHE, after an inquiry.
And earlier this year, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that the issue was again under review.
But now SRE could become compulsory as a “safeguarding issue”, as amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill could be made compulsory.
The calls come as five Parliamentary Select Committees wrote to Ms Greening calling for SRE to be made a statutory subject.
Under the plans, lessons including domestic violence, consent, porn and sexting would be made compulsory.
It is unclear whether religious schools would be given an opt-out to teaching the lessons, but a government spokesperson hinted to the Sunday Times that this could be dropped.
They said: “Justine [Greening] is clear that this is something that has to be looked at. It is not just a question of making it mandatory but also of what we should be teaching, including issues such as sexting and domestic violence.”
The Department for Education told the Sunday Times: “High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life — helping them make informed choices, stay safe and learn to respect themselves and others . . . we are actively looking at options to ensure that all children have access to high-quality teaching of these subjects.”
It is understood that plans would be tabled as amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill, but this has not been confirmed by the department.
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Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, said the issue needed to be adddressed “urgently”
He tells the Sunday Times: “I see this as a priority given there are new forms of violence now in schools, not the sort of violence we saw in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I talk to heads all the time and there are increasing concerns about cyber-bullying, inappropriate behaviour to girls and sexting.
“I think the government needs to act quickly to bring [SRE] in, given the way schools have changed and the new problems that are emerging . . . It is important we take sex education seriously.”
The chair of the Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee adds: “What is currently compulsory in secondary schools is the science of reproduction; the rest is based on guidance that was last updated at the turn of the millennium and makes no reference to pornography through which, as we know, more young children are finding out about sex.”
A DfE spokesperson told PinkNews: “High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life – helping them make informed choices, stay safe and learn to respect themselves and others.
“Education on sex and relationships is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools, and many academies and free schools teach it as part of the curriculum. However, we are actively looking at options to ensure that all children have access to high-quality teaching of these subjects.”
Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan tells PinkNews: “I welcome the fact the DfE is looking at this issue. It is very important that our young people are prepared during their time at school for life in modern Britain which means focusing on issues such as relationships, mental resilience and keeping safe online as well as a knowledge rich curriculum. I am sorry I wasn’t given the chance to make this change to the curriculum so I welcome Justine Greening focus on this.”