UK Government: Students must learn about sexually transmitted infections and SRE is already a requirement

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The Department for Education has defended itself from Yvette Cooper’s criticism over its policy on sex education in schools.

Writing yesterday in The Independent, the senior Labour MP accused Education Secretary Michael Gove of failing to make Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) a statutory requirement for schools.

Ms Cooper said: “We’re calling for action to prevent violence and change attitudes towards abuse among the young.

“That’s where we need to start. We can’t ignore the way young people’s perceptions of sex and the interaction between men and women are being shaped by online access to extreme and violent porn. And we can’t stand by while abuse grows.

“That is why Labour is committed to introducing compulsory sex and relationship education into schools – teaching zero tolerance of violence in relationships. It is simply incomprehensible that Michael Gove has refused so many times to do this.”

On Tuesday, the Department for Education (DfE) stated that SRE was already a “compulsory” requirement for all maintained secondary schools, but not for academies.

“Sex and relationship education is already compulsory in all maintained secondary schools, and primary schools are able to teach it as well,” a DfE spokesperson told

“Our guidance, which schools must follow when teaching SRE, specifically states that children should learn about sexual consent and how to recognise and avoid abuse.

“Pupils must learn about sexually transmitted infections as part of sex and relationship education. As part of the new science GCSE, pupils will also be taught about sexually transmitted infections for the first time.”

Ms Cooper has long argued for statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education, which would mean teaching SRE as a subject in its own right.

She told PinkNews in June last year that it could help address the health challenges faced by LGBT students, such as homophobic bullying and poor rates of sexual health in the LGBT community.

However, backbench amendments have twice been voted down in the Commons and the House of Lords.

The leadership of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats whipped their parliamentarians to vote against statutory PSHE.

Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, the newly-elected chairwoman of the Commons Health Select Committee, expressed her support for Labour’s Clause 20 PSHE amendment during last year’s debates.

Research published by Stonewall last week showed the majority of teachers feel sex education needs to be improved.

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

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