Age-appropriate SRE should be a statutory subject in all state-funded schools. At the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to introduce compulsory SRE in order to teach children about mutual respect and the importance of healthy relationships.
I made the case for improvements in a Channel Four News interview, while the Children’s Commissioner for England has highlighted just how important relationship education could be in reducing the toll of sexual abuse and violence against girls and young women, creating a real understanding of consent.
The Children and Social Work Bill currently making its way through Parliament offers an opportunity for the government to make the changes in our education system that are needed in order to protect the best interests and the health of children and ensure that young people are provided with the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe, happy and healthy in the 21st century.
During the Committee Stage of this Bill, an Opposition-backed amendment would have required local authorities to ensure pupils educated in their area receive accurate, age-appropriate Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), including SRE. My Opposition colleagues on the Committee that considered the Bill voted in favour of this amendment but unfortunately, the government voted against it and it was defeated.
However, the government did commit to look at how access to effective SRE and PSHE can be improved. At the end of January I pressed the minister for more details and she promised that action would be taken once the government was convinced of ‘getting it right.’ You can read our exchange by clicking here.
I will continue to press the government to introduce statutory SRE. Ultimately, I would like to see high quality, age-appropriate PSHE made available to every child in the country irrespective of what type of school they attend.