Missed opportunity to make PSHE statutory in Government response to school sexual harassment and violence report

The Government has responded today to the Women and Equalities Committee report into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. The report called for statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education – including sex and relationships education (SRE) – amongst its extensive recommendations.

The Government response stated that the case for further action regarding statutory PSHE and SRE is “actively under review” but failed to make any further commitment to strengthening the subject’s status at this stage.

The Committee’s report had highlighted the extent of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools and highlighted an inconsistency in how schools approach these issues and how they meet their legal obligations as well as a lack of guidance and support for teachers to deal with these issues effectively.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said:

“We are disappointed that the Government hasn’t taken the opportunity presented by the Women and Equalities Committee report into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools to make PSHE education, including comprehensive sex and relationships education, statutory. The report’s recommendation was very strong in this regard as was its evidence for the shocking extent of the issue and the key role that statutory PSHE could play in addressing it. 

While we are pleased that the Government recognised the importance of PSHE education in its response, and is “actively reviewing” options to improve quality and accessibility in order to keep children safe, the fact remains that thousands of young people are missing out on these vital lessons due to the subject’s non-statutory status on the curriculum and decreasing time allocated to it by schools. Only statutory status will help to arrest and reverse this decline and we call on the Government to take this step at the earliest available opportunity."

The Women and Equalities Committee has issued a statement on the Government response including a call from Committee Chair Maria Miller for further Government action. Ms Miller said that:

“The scale of the problem of sexual harassment in schools demands a robust and urgent response from those who take responsibility for our children’s safety when they are at school”

A response from the Girlguiding young Advocate panel included the following: 

“We are among the girls and young women across the country who have been severely let down by the Government’s response today. Girls are being sexually harassed at school every day and this can have a devastating impact on their confidence and ability to flourish. We feel the Government has missed a crucial opportunity to make schools safer for all young people, by not going far enough in their action to tackle this issue."

 

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