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.
Select Committee To Hold first Evidence session
The Education Select Committee on PSHE and SRe holds its first evidence session on tuesday 21st October at 9-30. It will be broadcast on Parliament TV. The purpose of this first session is to study academic evidence on sexual health and academic attainment,the effect of recent government action and how the effectiveness of SRE should be measured. A second panel will look at the current quality of PSHE and SRE in Schools, the ways in which schools interact with parents on SRE, and the impact of the current status of the subject.
At least it looks as though the inquiry will be addressing some of the right questions.
On the same day that the Select Committee is to take evidence for the for the first time, Diana Johnson, Labour MP for Hull North is to introduce her ‘Sex and Relationships Education [Curriculum] Bill under the ten minute rule bill.
The bill calls for the Secretary of State to make provision to include education about sex and relationships,resilience against bullying and sexual abuse and ending violence against women and girls in the national curriculum.
We of course welcome these provisions but they do not go far enough
1. There is no provision for SRe to be part of an integrated PSHE programme. THe overwhelming view of those organisations supporting SRE provision has been that this is the best way to provide it [See evidence presented to Select Committee}.This,until a short while ago—-until indeed the arrival of Tristram Hunt as Shadow Education Secretary this USED to be Labour’s policy too. It would appear that Mr. Hunt has caste a very long shadow over this bill as he has been implacably opposed to mandatory PSHE
2 It is good that SRE would be part of the National Curriculum —as we have argued this would give the subject proper status, resourcing and answerability. However, many schools do not have to teach the National Curriculum. is it seriously being argued that youngsters in those schools should be left in ignorance and without protection? Why?
3. The Bill, as drafted, points to the particular problem faced by girls in schools. That is undoubtedly true and it is high time that these problems were tackled. However LGBT youngsters have also faced systematic abuse, bullying , lack of self esteem, mental ill-health and dropping out of school. Some-n desperation continue to turn to conversion therapy.We feel that this well-documented problem should be spelt out as much as that of girls. It is not a specifically LGBT of course —but neither is it spefically a female one. I am sure that such was not the intention.
Diana Johnson has been a doughty fighter for LGBT rights—her record is second to none, But this suggested bill has severe limitations.Is half a loaf better than none? I suppose it depends how hungry you are. Bu we will continue to campaign for the Full Monty.
The bill today passed its first reading without a vote being forced and will therefore be given its second reading next month. Diana’s case was strengthened by Tory MP for Shipley ,Philip Davis, saying that he was offended by the idea of sex education in schools and that it should be left to the parents. Perhaps he had some bad experiences in school! Diana correctly pointed out that the government should not just ‘sit back and hope .that parents would talk o their children and that the intention was to reinforce good parenting and not replace it
It was also made clear in a statement from Diana’s Office to Pink News that her intention was that the national curriculum would address the problems faced by LGBT youngsters.
We obviously wholeheartedly endorse that but would still welcome it being specifically in the bill.