The Government responded to the Women and Equalities Select Committee report on sexual harassment and violence this week. The report recommended statutory status for PSHE education, including sex and relationships education, yet the Government response made no commitment to improving status at this stage. This prompted a joint letter from five Select Committee urging Education Secretary Justine Greening to take action to make PSHE and SRE statutory and follow-up parliamentary questions.
Missed opportunity to make PSHE statutory in Government response to school sexual harassment and violence report
The Women and Equalities Committee report included statutory status for PSHE – including sex and relationships education (SRE) – amongst its extensive recommendations to help tackle sexual harassment and violence. The Government responded to the report this week and while referring to the importance of PSHE, and that options to improve its quality are ‘actively under review’, it made no further commitment to strengthening the subject’s status at this stage.
The response was criticised by many organisations, teaching unions and politicians as a ‘missed opportunity’. Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said that “The scale of the problem of sexual harassment in schools demands a robust and urgent response” while the NAHT described the case for statutory PSHE as ‘unarguable’.
The PSHE Association response, while welcoming that the Government were reviewing options for improvement, regretted that “thousands of young people are missing out on these vital lessons” due to the subject’s current status on the curriculum and called on the Government to address this situation as soon as possible.
Five Select Committee Chairs call on Government to make PSHE statutory
Prompted by the Government‘s aforementioned response , five Parliamentary Select Committee Chairs wrote a joint letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening calling for statutory PSHE and SRE.
The letter, from three Conservative and two Labour MPs, strongly urged the Education Secretary to give “serious thought” to making PSHE statutory to address the “lifelong consequences” for children and young people of patchy or inadequate access to PSHE and SRE.
Parliamentary questions PSHE and SRE
Maria Miller MP also raised the matter in the House of Commons this week. She asked whether the Government intends to make time for an urgent debate to demonstrate support for the recommendation to make sex and relationship education compulsory.
David Lidington MP - responding on behalf of the Government said that they were “looking again at the case for further action on PSHE and sex education” with “particular consideration to improving quality and accessibility.”
Government response to Home Affairs Select Committee report on FGM
On December 2nd, the Government published a response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The Select Committee had recommended that PSHE should be made compulsory and include tackling violence against women and girls, and teaching children about FGM.
The Government responded to this recommendation by acknowledging the value of high quality sex and relationship education but again making no commitment at this stage to statutory status. It also referred directly to PSHE Association guidance on FGM:
“ Schools have the autonomy to tailor their local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of their pupils, including teaching about FGM, by drawing on the resources and evidence provided by experts and tools such as materials made available by the PSHE Association. The PSHE Association has produced briefing on FGM for teachers wishing to cover the subject and their website has an area dedicated to information about FGM.”