An adjournment debate called by Conservative MP Maria Miller on sex and relationships education (SRE) took place in Parliament last night. Ms Miller has campaigned on the issue strongly since the Women and Equalities Committee she chairs recommended the need for SRE and personal, social health and economic (PSHE) education to be statutory in its report.
During the debate, Ms Miller focussed on risks associated with issues such as online pornography, cyber-bullying, harassment and sharing of sexual images, and the need for statutory provision on the curriculum to deal with such issues given the current absence of such lessons in many schools.
Responding on behalf of the Department for Education, Caroline Dinenage – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women, Equalities and Early Years – said that ‘the Secretary of State has made it absolutely clear that we need to prioritise progress on the quality and availability of SRE and PSHE’.
Ms Dinenage also suggested that the Department ‘will set out plans to move forward’ as part of the Children and Social Work Bill, though it is unclear at this point what measures they plan to take.
PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said:
“We welcome such strong, cross-party support for strengthening the status of PSHE including comprehensive SRE on the curriculum and look forward to DfE measures to improve quality and accessibility.
PSHE education can no longer be an optional add-on for schools given the seriousness of the issues involved, so statutory status for PSHE must be central to these plans and this must be an entitlement for all school pupils at key stages 1-4 in all state schools, whether they are academies or maintained schools.
And as we stated jointly with the NAHT recently, PSHE as a whole must be given statutory status, with SRE as a mandatory element. PSHE develops the skills, attributes and knowledge to apply to a range of vital and related issues regarding child safety, wellbeing and success – from mental health to skills necessary for employment and a healthy economy. It must therefore statutory in its entirety to enable young people to face the challenges of the modern world.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:
“We have campaigned for PSHE, which includes SRE, to be a part of every child’s curriculum in order to help them learn about the world, and for teachers to be protected when discussing sensitive topics. The case for this is becoming unarguable, as cross party support grows. We hope the government listens to school leaders, teachers, parents and children themselves and makes this change now.”