Government to bring forward plans for compulsory sex ed
The government is set to bring forward plans for compulsory sex and relationship education this week.
At present, sex ed is only required in local authority-run schools, leaving academies, independents and faith schools free to ignore the subject or to teach a narrow version of SRE.
There have been multiple warnings that the system is leading to a lack of basic sex ed among young people, and the government has come under repeated pressure to act on the issue.
Multiple sources have confirmed that Education Secretary Justine Greening is preparing to bring forward legislation today to make SRE a statutory component of education in all schools.
It is also expected to update existing SRE guidance, last issued in 2000, to cover issues connected to the internet and modern relationships in 2017.
The details of the law are not yet clear, however – and any move to require relationships education to be LGBT-inclusive education is likely to be strongly opposed by religious groups.
Previous attempts to pass SRE have included loosely-worded opt-outs for faith groups, with a proposal from Tory MPs David Burrowes and Maria Miller including a clause to ensure kids are “protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious background of the pupils concerned”.
A Downing Street source said: “The department will be saying more than this in due course. High quality relationship and sex education is an important part of preparing young people for adult life.
“The education secretary has been clear she is looking at options to make sure children have access to education in those subjects. Clearly, there is a threat online and that threat has grown and now is the right time to look at how we can ensure children can have the access they need to teaching about those subjects.”
Mrs Miller said in a statement to PinkNews previously: “Children are clear they want SRE to be compulsory and are calling for the Government to help make that happen.
“Cyberbullying, online abuse and sexual harassment in schools are all part of teenage life in Britain today. Children are asking Government to put compulsory SRE in place to help them cope better and to feel safer.
“Leading charities such as Barnardo’s, National Children’s Bureau, Plan International UK, Terrence Higgins Trust and The Children’s Society are all supporting this important call for action to make SRE compulsory for all school age children.”
Javed Khan of Barnardo’s said: “Barnardo’s has long campaigned for age appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) for all children in England as we know this essential information will help protect them.
“In our poll of almost 1,000 11 to 15 year olds in England last week, the overwhelming majority told us they would be safer if they had SRE school lessons.
“All children are vulnerable to online grooming, and they have told us they want help to understand the digital dangers and risks around sharing images of themselves.
“We know parents want their children to have SRE lessons too. Last year 8 in 10 parents said SRE would help their child understand sexual behavior and keep them safer.
“Our specialist services sees firsthand the effects grooming and exploitation has on children. The government must give all children the knowledge to help protect them.”
Ian Green, exec of HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Sex and Relationships Education is a safeguarding necessity, but our recent report showed that 1 in 7 young people missed out on SRE completely.
“Where it is happening, it’s only covering the biological basics and rarely covers vital issues such as consent, LGBT relationships and HIV. This can have devastating effects on young people’s sexual and mental health.
“We need to give all young people the tools to make informed decisions and to have healthy relationships, which they are ready for and want. This requires legislative change to make SRE compulsory in every school.”