Thank you if you've contacted me about Sex and Relationship Education (SRE). Like many constituents, it’s something I’m passionate about – and very keen to see change on. I believe age-appropriate SRE should be a statutory subject in all state-funded schools. Teaching young people about the social and emotional aspects of healthy relationships could be hugely valuable and has never been so important.
Many people have been in touch with their own stories and experiences. One man telling me that he struggled with his sexuality throughout school and was never given the information he needed to understand what he was going through. He said SRE would have made a world of difference to his mental health.
There are so many other issues that SRE could address – children who are suffering abuse could also be given the opportunity to speak out, to learn what constitutes as a healthy, safe relationship. Good SRE can also give young people the right information to make informed decisions about their bodies and sexual health - A lack of knowledge can be damaging.
Last year I put a question to Education Minister Justine Greening asking if she would amend the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance to include the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools. The recommendation came from The Women and Equalities Select Committee who show evidence that young people’s first sexual experience is less likely to be against their will if they have had access to good SRE.
Justine Greening agree the Government need to look again at how schools deliver high-quality and age-appropriate sex and relationship education. She said they are ‘carefully considering all the options, including updating guidance’. The fact there is cross-party support for change is reassuring.
The Children and Social Work Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. This Bill offers an opportunity for the Government to make the changes in our education system that could make a huge difference to young people's future.
During the Committee Stage of this Bill, Conservatives voted against an amendment that would require local authorities to ensure pupils get age-appropriate Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), including SRE. However, they did commit to look at how access to effective SRE and PSHE can be improved and has previously stated that it is keeping the case for further action on PSHE and SRE delivery under review.
I will be watching the progress of the Bill and will continue to put pressure on the Government. I assure you, this is something I will not drop. I understand the importance of SRE it and will continue to fight for change.