MSPs urged to introduce compulsory sex education

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Campaigners in Scotland are urging the Scottish Parliament to introduce statutory sex and relationship education (SRE) in a petition.

Sexpression:UK said the compulsory measure for schools was needed to tackle Scotland’s high rates of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and homophobia.

Jack Fletcher, advocacy representative at Sexpression:UK and an Aberdeen University medical student, gave evidence this week at Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee.

“Although teenage pregnancy has fallen greatly in recent years, the rates in Scotland are still one of the highest in Europe,” he said.

“Sexual transmitted infections are still rife due to lack of contraception use.

“Homophobia is rife in schools and this is an issue that needs effective confrontation, of which education is key.

“Homophobia leads to self-harm, depression and reduced attainment in the individual’s education capabilities, an issue that is epidemic in schools as shown by the many reports by Stonewall Scotland.

“Consent is a huge area of ambiguity and this only adds to sexual violence, rape and verbal harassment. This is not treated with the concern it deserves.”

Scotland has almost no statutory curriculum, with only religious education and Gaelic instruction in certain regions enshrined in law, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) has advised MSPs.

“Rather than being set out in statute, the school curriculum is established through guidance issued by Education Scotland,” it said.

“The Scottish Government note that responsibility for sex and relationship education lies primarily with local authorities.”

MSPs agreed to take forward the petition and seek further advice from the Scottish Government.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has been urged by campaigners to make SRE a statutory requirement for all schools in England and Wales.