YOUNG VOICES

Compulsory Sex And Relationships Education Debate Sees Hundreds Contact Their MPs To Demand Change

The proposal was voted down at committee stage in Parliament yesterday.

12/01/2017 17:22 GMT | Updated 13/01/2017 16:05 GMT

Hundreds of people have written to their local MPs in the first 24 hours of a Barnardo’s campaign demanding compulsory sex and relationships education (SRE) for all school children, the charity has revealed. 

The news comes the day after Tory MPs voted against changes at committee stage that would make “age-appropriate, inclusive and religiously diverse” lessons about sex mandatory for all. 

“This response shows how passionately people feel about wanting to help protect children,” Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan told The Huffington Post UK. 

“The overwhelming majority of almost 1,000 11 to 15 year olds who took part in our polling this week said they would feel safer if they had school lessons on SRE and we know 8 in 10 parents agree too.

Ben Pruchnie via Getty Images
Stella Creasy is the leader of the all-female group of MPs which has tabled the amendment 

”The government must listen to the growing groundswell of public support for SRE classes and act now,” he added.  

Campaigners, charity workers and politicians have also shared their frustration after an amendment to the Children and Social Work tabled by a group of female MP’s was voted down yesterday.  

Simon Hoare, one of ten Tory MPs who voted against the proposal, said the wording of the amendment needed to be changed to provide a “legislative comfort blanket” to protect faith schools. 

“The new clause needs to include a clear statement that we are talking not about promotion, but about education, and where sex education is delivered in a faith school environment, those providing the education should not feel inhibited about answering questions such as ‘What is the thinking of our faith on this particular aspect of sexuality?’,” Hoare told the committee. 

Edward Timpson added: “The Secretary of State herself has made this a personal priority, as we have heard, and we will be able to say more at a later stage in the Bill about how the Government intend to secure provision that is fit for purpose, inclusive and supports all young people growing up in our country today.” 

The bill will be voted on again when it reaches report stage in February. 

Under current government guidelines - which were last updated in 2000 - only state schools are required to teach students about the biological processes of sex, leaving thousands of children at academies, private schools and free schools in the dark. 

No institutions are compelled give lessons on the social and emotional aspects of relationships. 

“Only one in seven children in our schools have had any form of sex and relationship education,” Labour MP Stella Creasy told the public bill committee yesterday. Creasy has led the parliamentary campaign in favour of the change.

“That means six other children are missing out and therefore might have negative impressions about what a good, positive and healthy relationship looks like.” 

Under the revision, all school pupils would receive lessons on sexual consent, sexual violence and domestic violence.  

Paul Hackett / Reuters
Labour MP Angela Eagle has shown her support for the amendment to the bill 

The amendment, if passed, would also see thousands of young people educated about same-sex relationships.

Figures from the Terence Higgins Trust show that 97% of young people do not receive any teaching about LGBT sex and relationships, while 97% miss out on discussions about gender identity. 

“So many LGBT+ kids grow up being taught a toxic form of shame that their identity is wrong, which they carry with them into their adult lives,” Hatti Smart from LGBT youth organisation National Student Pride told the Huffington Post UK. 

“Last year at Student Pride we saw so many stories of issues with addiction, rising rates of STIs and mental health being linked to that shame. 

“Imagine if every young person was also told same sex relationships were normal, lawful and protected too. It would free a whole generation,” she added.