House of Lords votes against mandatory sex and relationship education in schools

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The House of Lords has rejected a Labour party amendment that would have made sex and relationship education mandatory in schools.

Peers were considering an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which would have make sex education, including lessons on same-sex relationships, compulsory across state-funded primary and secondary schools. The amendment received the support of just 142 peers compared to the 209 who voted against it.

The plans failed in the House of Commons last summer, after they were voted down by Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs.

Prior to the Commons vote, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told that the government needed to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education a statutory requirement in order to address the health challenges faced by LGBT students.

The senior Labour MP stressed how it could dramatically help in the fight against homophobic bullying and poor rates of sexual health in the LGBT community.

In March 2013, Children’s Minister Elizabeth Truss confirmed that PHSE Education in England would remain a non-statutory subject.

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

Ahead of Tuesday’s debate in the Lords, the Department for Education said that teachers already have the “freedom to tailor their teaching so it meets the needs of their pupils”.

Writing on the Telegraph website, Yvette Cooper said: “Although both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have spoken of the importance of equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complexities of sex and relationships in a digital age, the government continues to drag its feet on this issue.

“The Education Secretary, Michael Gove is still refusing to listen to calls for change from parents, teachers, young people and organisations”.

Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg expressed his frustration at the failure of the Cabinet to agree on the need to “improve” and “modernise” sex education guidance during a speech at a Terrence Higgins Trust event.

In an interview afterwards to, the Lib Dem leader said updating sex education could help in the fight against rising HIV cases among gay and bisexual men.

The Department for Education announced it would be working on “new advice produced by experts groups”, which will be emailed to all headteachers to use in conjunction with the existing teaching materials.

However, PHSE would remain a non-statutory subject.