All schools urged by MPs to teach Sex and Relationship Education

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Every primary and secondary school should have to teach Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE), the Education Committee has said.

The Committee released its fifth report of the 2014/15 session, ‘Life Lessons: PSHE and SRE in Schools’ today.

In it, MPs recommended that PSHE and SRE, LGBT inclusive, should be given statutory status, in order to “ensure that appropriate curriculum time is devoted to the subject and that teachers get the training they need”.

It suggests that “age appropriate” SRE should be taught in all primary and secondary schools.

It does, however, suggest that parents should retain the right to remove their children if they dislike what they are being taught.

Launching a report examining PSHE and SRE, Graham Stuart, Chair of Education Committee, said today: “There is an overwhelming demand for statutory sex and relationships education – from teachers, parents and young people themselves. It’s important that school leaders and governors take PSHE seriously and improve their provision by investing in training for teachers and putting PSHE lessons on the school timetable. Statutory status will help ensure all of this happens.

“Young people have a right to information that will keep them healthy and safe. SRE forms an important part of any school’s efforts to safeguard young people from abuse, and is particularly needed to protect the most vulnerable children. PSHE builds character and resilience, and will help young people to live happy and healthy lives.

“Parents have rights too. They must be consulted by schools on the provision of SRE and must keep the right to withdraw their children if they are unhappy with what the school provides.”

The report investigated actions taken by the Government to improve PSHE following Ofsted’s findings in 2013 that the subjected needed to improve in 40% of schools.

Calling the Government’s current strategy to improve PSHE as “weak”, the report  says there is a “mismatch” between the priority ministers say PSHE is given and the steps which have actually been taken.

The Education Committee recommends:

·         The Department for Education should develop a work plan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and SRE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools.

·         All schools should be required to run a regular consultation with parents on the school’s SRE provision.

·         The parental right to withdraw their child from elements of SRE should be retained.

·         The Government should formally endorse and issue the SRE guidance produced by Brook, the Sex Education Forum and the PSHE Association. It should also promote this more actively to schools and governors.

·         The funding of continuous professional development for PSHE teachers and school nurses should be reinstated.

·         Ofsted should resume its regular subject surveys of PSHE provision.

·         SRE should be renamed Relationships and Sex Education – RSE – to emphasise the relationships element of the subject.

PinkNews in September joined with a coalition of LGBT organisations and campaigners writing to political leaders in the UK to highlight a need for compulsory LGBT-inclusive SRE in all schools.

All three have since responded to the open letter, which was signed by PinkNews and was issued to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in October.

In his response, Mr Cameron said: “I strongly agree with the importance of high-quality PSHE education in schools. I believe that all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice, and we have outlined this expectation the introduction to framework to the new national curriculum.”

Deputy Prime MInister Nick Clegg also wrote a response, saying: “I agree that we need to give young people better education about sex and relationships so that they can make informed and responsible decisions concerning their sexual health.”

Labour Leader Ed Miliband said in his response: “I believe that good sex and relationships education is key to changing attitudes and behaviour to teaching the importance of respect for others.”

The Labour Party earlier this month announced that it will make SRE compulsory in all state schools, and that it plans to crack down on homophobic bullying.

A Private Members’ Bill, tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas, requiring SRE to be introduced as a provision of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education had its second reading postponed last year and will now receive parliamentary attention in February.

The Lib Dems have signalled support for the bill.

Last year, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan hinted that she could be moving towards supporting statutory PSHE – however she is yet to confirm her intentions.