Education Secretary hints mandatory sex education is ‘top of in-tray’ after damning reports

Education Secretary Justine Greening has confirmed she is again considering making sex and relationship education mandatory and inclusive – after the issue was blocked earlier this year.

Ms Greening took over as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities earlier this year, when Nicky Morgan was sacked from both roles by new Prime Minister Theresa May.

As Education Secretary, Mrs Morgan had repeatedly made attempts to make inclusive sex and relationship education (SRE) a statutory requirement in all schools, with rumours at the time that figures inside the Cabinet had intervened to block the reform.

But with new Prime Minister Theresa May thought to favour reform on the issue, Justine Greening confirmed she was looking at it again after a damning report from Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee.

Asked what was top of her ‘in-tray’ as new Secretary of State, Ms Greening confirmed to the Education Committee that SRE “is one of the things that’s in it”.

She said: “We’ve all seen the report that came out yesterday in relation to sex and relationship education and I think it is time we looked at how we could do a better job.

“I also think that in the context of PSHE, there’s a real opportunity to make sure that area plays a full role in helping our children come out of school, not just knowing all the stuff they need to know, but being able to make informed choices about a variety of different areas they’ll need to take a view on.”

Asked about a  specific statutory obligation on SRE, she said: “It’s one of the areas I’m looking at. I haven’t reached a final view on it yet. You’re absolutely right to ask the question about what it’s going to take to make sure we do a stronger job.

“I also recognise that it’s not as simple as making it mandatory and statutory – there’s a quality issue of how this education is delivered in school, and making sure it’s delivered in a way that’s high quality and actually does enable children to learn what we’re hoping they can learn through putting it in place.

“That’s the other piece of this that I’m quite concerned to make sure that we look at.”

PinkNews understands former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had been close to securing agreement on the issue earlier this year – before the EU Referendum shook up the political landscape.

In its damning report on sexual harassment this week, Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee found that provision of sex and relationship education is “patchy and largely inadequate”.

The Committee wrote: “Ofsted’s most recent report on PSHE was published in 2013. It looked at both primary and secondary schools and found that 40% of schools require improvement or were inadequate in this area.

“Young people we heard from were also disappointed by the quality and frequency of the SRE lessons they had received.

“We heard that despite longstanding criticism of the current standard of PSHE, not enough was being done to address the issue.

“Good quality SRE is shown to have a positive impact in helping to reduce sexual harassment and sexual violence. The evidence clearly shows that current provision of education in this area is patchy and largely inadequate.”

Elsewhere this week, a Public Health England report found that under-24s now account for one third of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).