Guidance from the Department for Education advises all schools should teach Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) as part of a broader curriculum covering Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. They say schools shouldn’t just teach about the biological “mechanics” in sex education, but should teach a broader range of life skills promoting, amongst other things, tolerance of different gender identities and sexual orientations.
But as we point out in a recent submission to Labour’s Education and Children Policy Commission, far too many schools fail to live up to this ideal, leaving all too many young people in fear and ignorance.
No school is legally-required to teach PSHE, and academies, free schools and Independent schools aren’t required to teach any SRE at all. Indeed, young LGBT people report shockingly-high levels of homophobic bullying in schools, and there is even evidence many schools still have Section 28-like statements in their SRE policies which explicitly rule out “promoting” homosexuality.
We believe that all young people – whatever school they go to – have a human right not to be left in fear and ignorance. We need mandatory SRE and PSHE – which includes education on tolerance of different sexual and gender identities – in all schools. We also believe the Government guidance on SRE – drawn up in 2000, before even the repeal of Section 28 – needs updating. That’s why we’re asking you to do two things:
The Coalition Government is never going to introduce these measures, but the Labour Party has proven more amenable in the past.
Ed Miliband has promised compulsory and updated SRE, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt has said it is a manifesto pledge, and the Shadow Equalities Secretary Gloria De Piero has written that this will apply to all publicly-funded schools.
But we need to go further: this should apply to all schools – even private schools; it should be part of a broader PSHE programme, yet PSHE is not even mentioned in Labour’s draft education manifesto; and this should be a crystal clear pledge in Labour’s 2015 General Election manifesto.
Progress has already been made. As we note on our blog, the Terrence Higgins Trust has started its own campaign for SRE in all schools, and the Education Select Committee has launched its own inquiry into PSHE and SRE in schools, which we have contributed to. Many Conservatives including Sarah Wollaston, Michael Fabricant and Norman Fowler have also come out in favour of PSHE – as have the Lib Dems.
As well as lobbying for SRE and PSHE within your own trade union or other organisations, we hope you will find the time to lobby your MP to support the ‘ Private Members’ Bill calling for mandatory PSHE.tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas and sponsored by Labour and Liberal backbenchers. A big turn out of Labour Mps is essential so that a message can be sent to Ed Miliband in time for the drafting of the Labour Manifesto.