UK: Government criticised for failing to mention LGBT youngsters in sex education report

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The National AIDS Trust (NAT) says the government’s sex education review “makes no mention of sex education which addresses the needs of LGBT young people.”

Published on Thursday, the Department of Education’s review of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PHSE) Education in England recommends it continues as a non-statutory subject.

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare, Elizabeth Truss, said:PSHE overall will remain a non-statutory subject. To allow teachers the flexibility to deliver high quality PSHE we consider it unnecessary to provide new standardised frameworks or programmes of study.

“Teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their pupils and do not need additional central prescription.”

However, health campaigners have criticised the decision with fears that it will lead to a “postcode lottery”.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust said: “This hands-off and inconsistent approach hasn’t worked so far. A recent survey by the Sex Education Forum found that one in four young people learn nothing about HIV at school.”

“The report also makes no mention of sex education which addresses the needs of LGBT young people. Gay and bisexual men remain the population group most likely to acquire HIV in the UK. The latest figures show in 2011 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”.

Diversity Role Models, which works to counter homophobic bullying in schools through diversity workshops also commented on the report.

Chair Simon Blake said: “Schools should be teaching the principles of equality and inclusion that the majority on the government front bench believe in. We need a statutory PSHE curriculum to ensure sexualities and diversity is included in PSHE to reduce homophobic bullying.”

“Leaving it up to schools to teach what they want in PSHE lessons creates a postcode lottery and we know from our work that homosexuality and homophobia are often left out of the curriculum.”

Mr Blake added: “Whether a student receives adequate sex and relationships education shouldn’t depend on attending a school where the head teacher believes in it. Nor should gay students face bullying because the school has chosen not to provide education which reduces homophobia.”

Last week, shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said the government had “run out of ideas on sexual health,” following the publication of its latest sexual health framework which is designed to lower rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.