A new report from the Education Select Commitee has stated that all state primary and secondary schools should be required to teach sex and relationship education – a recommendation which would affect children as young as 5.
Committee chairman Graham Stuart MP defended the statement, saying that ‘young people have a right to information that will keep them safe’.
‘There is an overwhelming demand for statutory sex and relationships education – from teachers, parents and young people themselves,’ he explained. ‘It’s important that school leaders and governors take PSHE seriously and improve their provision by investing in training for teachers and putting PSHE lessons on the school timetable. Statutory status will help ensure all of this happens.’
Research from the report showed concerning flaws in the current system, including children not being able to name certain body parts, and not understanding the concept of consent. It is hoped that making sex education part of the curriculum early on will help prevent issue such as STIs, teenage pregnancy, cyberbulling and exploitation in later life.
In March 2013, a similar review took place, and it was decided that sex education should remain a ‘non-compulsary subject’ – but Ofsted reports have since shown that 40% of schools still require improvement in this area.
At present, primary schools are only required to teach basic biology, while secondary schools are required to cover sexually transmitted diseases with pupils aged 14-16 – but many political figures feel that more information is needed.
A Department of Education spokeswoman said: ‘We want to see all young people leave school prepared for life in modern Britain. This means not only ensuring that young people receive a rigorous academic education, but also helping them to develop personal and emotional well-being.’
‘High quality PSHE teaching has a vital role to play in this – giving young people a better understanding of the society around them and supporting them to make informed choices and stay safe.’
Under the new system, parents would retain the right to withdraw their children, and be encouraged to consult with teachers to understand exactly what is being taught and how.
No final decision has been made as of yet, but the government has said that it will consider the findings of the report carefully.