Labour’s Clause 20 sex education amendment fails in the Commons

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A Labour amendment for mandatory sex and relationship education in schools failed to get the support of enough MPs last night and Children’s Minister Edward Timpson confirmed PSHE would remain a non-statutory subject.

The Clause 20 amendment to the Children and Families Bill for statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education was voted down by 303 MPs – 219 supported the amendment.

Speaking to on Monday, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Equalities, Yvette Cooper, stressed how Clause 20 could dramatically help in the fight against homophobic bullying and poor rates of sexual health in the LGBT community, by making PSHE part of the statutory curriculum.

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) and the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) both welcomed the senior Labour MP’s comments.

Yesterday, Guy Slade, parliamentary officer at THT said to “Making sex and relationships education part of the statutory curriculum would help to raise standards in teaching and ensure every child is taught properly about important issues like safer sex, how to have healthy and respectful relationships, and that it’s ok to be gay.”

But speaking in the Commons, Children’s Minister and Tory MP Edward Timpson confirmed that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education in England would remain a non-statutory subject.

On personal, social and health education, we all recognise that this is an important issue, but we do not have unanimity on what constitutes the best approach. The expectation that all schools should teach PSHE is outlined in the introduction to the framework of the proposed new national curriculum. It is not a statutory requirement, however, as we strongly believe that teachers need the flexibility to use their professional judgment to decide when and how best to provide PSHE in their local circumstances.

The government do not believe that the right of parents to withdraw their children from sex and relationship education should be diminished in the way proposed. We see no need to amend the existing legislation, which provides a clear and workable model for schools and parents. Moreover, the new provision would place a disproportionate burden on teachers, who would have to make and defend decisions on what constitutes “sufficient maturity”.

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