The Education Select Committee has demanded that SRE is placed on the national curriculum, though parents would still be able to withdraw their children from lessons.
The latest government advice on sex and relationships education (SRE) is 14 years old and the Education Select Committee heard evidence during its inquiry that life has changed radically since then, with the rise of social media, cyberbullying and easy access to pornography. Now the committee has published a hard-hitting report that criticises the government’s “weak” strategy for improving SRE and calls for it to become part of the national curriculum for the first time, the Telegraph reports.
The MPs were concerned about the lack of clarity over the status of sex education in schools. Primary schools only have to provide SRE in the science curriculum; academies do not have to offer the subject and council-run secondaries have to cover sexually transmitted diseases as part of science for 14 to 16 year-olds.
The MPs are urging the DfE to come up with a strategy to deliver age-appropriate personal, social, health education (PSHE) and SRE in all schools, with enough curriculum time and specialist training for teachers. Graham Stuart, chairman of the committee, said there was an “overwhelming demand” for statutory SRE from teachers, parents and young people. “It’s important that school leaders and governors take PSHE seriously and improve their provision, by investing in training and putting PSHE lessons on the school timetable. Statutory status will help ensure all of this happens,” he said. “Young people have a right to information that will keep them healthy and safe.”
However, the committee says that parents should retain the right to remove their children from sex education. “Parents have rights too. They must be consulted by schools on the provision of SRE and must keep the right to withdraw their children if they are unhappy with what the school provides,” Mr. Stuart said. NASUWT questioned this, commenting: “Policymakers need to decide whether SRE is statutory and is treated as such in all schools, in which case parental opt-out cannot be retained. If curriculum freedom for academies and parental opt-out are to be retained then quite clearly PSHE and SRE are not statutory and no one should pretend otherwise.”
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