Tories should back statutory sex education, says Health Committee Chair

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Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston is calling on her party to support statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education.

The Totnes MP has praised the Conservative peer and former Health Secretary, Lord Fowler, who last week told PinkNews it was time to heed the clamouring views of parents “who are desperately in favour of this”.

Dr Wollaston, who chairs the influential Commons Health Select Committee, said statutory PSHE could help address the health challenges faced by young people.

“Sex education has to be about more than ‘plumbing and prevention’,” Dr Wollaston told

“It should include the opportunity for age appropriate discussions about relationships and consent.

“I did vote for the amendment last year on the Children and Families Bill which, if it had passed, would have meant that parents would no longer have the right to remove their children from these classes.

“I agree with Lord Fowler in urging the Conservative Party to back statutory Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). Violent pornography distorts understanding of consent and attitudes to women.”

Dr Wollaston added: “An understanding of sexually transmitted diseases, how they spread and why early detection matters is arguably even more important for those children who have parents who do not feel comfortable having these discussions.”

A YouGov survey published in May last year showed 86% of adults believe sex education should be compulsory in secondary schools.

A previous poll by the influential family group Mumsnet found 98% of parents said they were happy for their children to attend SRE lessons.

MPs and campaigners warn that SRE continues to be taught poorly in schools – and that statutory PSHE would mean teaching SRE as a subject in its own right, allowing teachers to receive proper training and for it to be taken seriously.

Under Michael Gove’s reign as Education Secretary, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats whipped their parliamentarians to vote against statutory PSHE.

Today, in a major policy shift, the Liberal Democrats announced they would make PSHE compulsory in all state-funded schools, as part of a manifesto pledge.

Last month, Green MP Caroline Lucas tabled a new Private Members’ Bill urging for statutory PSHE. It will receive its second reading in the autumn.

The Department for Education said sex and relationships education was an “important part of preparing young people for life in modern Britain”.

“Sex and relationship education is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and many primary schools also teach it in an age appropriate manner,” a spokeswoman said.

“We also expect academies and free schools to deliver relationship education as part of their provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.

“We have also made financial literacy compulsory for the first time ever for 11-to-16 year olds, which will cover the importance of budgeting, sound money management and how different financial services work.”

Dr Wollaston spoke to PinkNews before today’s Liberal Democrat announcement.