95% of young people didn’t receive LGBT-inclusive sex ed classes

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

95% of young people were never taught appropriate LGBT-specific information during sex and relationship education classes, a report has revealed.

HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust today released the findings of a major new survey of over 900 young people about sex and relationship education provisions in schools.

The findings show that sex and relationship education (SRE) is usually limited to biological topics like reproduction, body parts and heterosexual sex, with LGBT issues not making it onto the agenda.

According to THT, 75% of respondents reported they had not been taught about consent, 95% had not learned about LGBT sex and relationships, 89% were not taught about sex and pleasure and 97% missed out on any discussion around gender identity.

59% of respondents did not receive information on HIV in school or did not remember if they had done.

Ian Green, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “In this report, we’ve seen the stark reality of SRE in this country and heard saddening stories of how one generation of young people have been exposed to low self-esteem, homophobia, bullying, unhealthy relationships and poor sexual health, as a result of the lack of quality SRE in our schools.

“The government’s quiet blocking of compulsory SRE will condemn another generation of young people to leave school armed with little to no information on issues like LGBT relationships, gender identity and consent.

“Without trusted information from schools on anything other than the biological basics of heterosexual sex, young people will turn to less reliable sources such as the internet or their peers as they navigate life outside the classroom. We must end this silence and make SRE mandatory in all schools if we are to tackle this safeguarding crisis.”

SRE is currently only mandatory in state-maintained secondary schools, which means private schools, primary schools, academies and free schools are under no obligation to provide it.

Earlier this year the government intervened to rule out plans for statutory, LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education, amid rumours of a rift in the Cabinet and interventions from Downing Street.

However, 99% of young people surveyed thought SRE should be mandatory in all schools and 97% thought it should be LGBT inclusive.

Ian Green said: “Young people have now told us loud and clear what kind of SRE they want.

“The government must now give them the tools to make positive and informed decisions, and to have healthy relationships, which they are ready for and want – wherever they go to school, and whatever their sexuality.”

Half of young people rated the SRE they received in school as either ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’. Just 2% rated it as ‘excellent’ and 10% rated it as ‘good’.

Ian Green added: “It is shocking that government guidance offered to schools on SRE is older than nearly all of the students themselves.

“Young people are getting information about sex and relationships in a world before social media existed, before smartphones, before equal marriage or Civil Partnerships. It is wholly unfit to prepare them for the realities of sex and relationships in 2016.”

Eighteen year old Lauren Alexandra Young said: “Inclusive SRE is a vital part of a young person’s life as it teaches them not only to be safe but that they are valid.

“Many young people struggle with their feelings of sexuality and gender and if no one  is talking to them about it, or allowing them to discuss it openly, they will internalise their worry and it will grow into something ugly and harmful for the individual.

“It is vital – and completely normal – to discuss inclusive sex and healthy relationships with young people.”

Read the full findings and find out more about the ‘SRE: End the Silence’ campaign at www.tht.org.uk/endthesilence