It's finally happened...
After years of campaigning for just how vital a compulsory healthy relationships education is for our young people, the government has finally agreed. In a much-anticipated statement, Justine Greening declared that all primary schools will be required to teach students from the age of four about safe and healthy relationships.
The move promises to educate our school children about the realities of sexting, revenge porn, healthy relationships and more. Me, and a whole host of campaigners and charities have just breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The situation has been dire for too long. Last year I spoke at the Generation Sext Conference in Edinburgh and laid out my concerns. I penned 'Sexting, Strangulation and Our Teens' on the Huffington Post and I was interviewed by Kaye Adams on the BBC. I told them all the same thing; that being taught how to identify healthy relationships and toxic relationships is crucial to young people's growth and self-esteem, and self-esteem is the only tool with the power to combat Domestic Abuse.
For quite some time me and my team have attended and hosted countless meetings, created campaigns, designed workshops, sat with MP's and celebrities and formed an All-Party Parliament Group working tirelessly to have healthy relationships taught as compulsory and it has now, finally been achieved.
This is so crucial to the wellbeing and safety of the next generation.
Why? If children cannot identify a healthy relationship then the chances are, they can't identify a toxic one either. Toxic relationships are quite literally destroying the lives of our young generation. There have been times I've wondered why the whole country isn't up in arms over how many British children are falling through the cracks because they haven't been properly equipped, supported or educated. 1 in 5 U.K teenage girls have already been assaulted by a boyfriend. Recent surveys reveal that approximately 40% of our young people are already being subjected to relationship abuse in their early teenage years.
This new law makes it mandatory for all secondary schools, including academies, private schools and religious free schools to make the age-appropriate sex and relationship education to teach healthy relationships and sex education as compulsory above the age of four.
Until now, sex education had been taught as part of biology in some schools and as Sex and relationship education (SRE) from the of age 11 onwards. Now, it will be taught alongside maths and history; exactly where it should always have been.
After all, what is the point in education if children can't access support, knowledge, counsel and information about the things that are fundamental to their wellbeing and safety? How long can we continue to read about teenage girls being murdered by their partners or incidents of revenge porn that have resulted in depression and suicide (not to mention the millions of children that are exposed to Domestic Abuse at home and are never given the tools to know how to cope emotionally) and not teach them how to avoid being another statistic?
Still, as elated as I am, I do think this requires some caution and care. In educating our children about healthy relationships this must be a real push for change, not just another ticked box. A measure that we work at, deliver effectively and expertly and measure its impact; improving it as we go. The thought of all of this hard work resulting in dull and dreary lessons that make little or no impact on a young person's life is unthinkable.
At London-based charity Strength With In Me Foundation (S.W.I.M), they are ready for this next giant step. Head of Communications Daniella Maison says, 'We've worked hard to make sure the lessons we deliver up and down the country are change-making. It's so important that we sensitively tackle the controversial area of Domestic Abuse and relationships using a combination of imaginatively designed and age-appropriate interactive techniques. By giving children accurate and relevant information that is both 'on time' and age-appropriate, we work to provide a firm foundation for them to make informed choices about their relationships.'
This is what is needed; Healthy Relationships lessons that are engaging and interactive and aim to promote a balanced, healthy approach to a sensitive area which can sometimes attract strong, biased and inaccurate opinions. In 2002, the government introduced 'Citizenship' classes as compulsory in U.K schools as a means of promoting identity and culture. Not long after, they were being labelled as a 'waste of time' 'non-subject' and 'wishy-washy' by teachers and academics because it failed to teach 'core values'. Our schoolchildren must not be the guinea pigs when it comes to Healthy Relationships and Sex Education; we need to make sure this is a push towards tangible change.
I'm thrilled that between now and September 2019 moves will be implemented in every school in the U.K. I hope it spreads to every national curriculum out there. My only proviso is; if we are really going to make a serious dent in the number of children being presently being failed by the lack of Healthy Relationships education, then this has to be a major revolution in education. We owe it to our children.
"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." Socrates