Tuesday, 28 January 2014

House of Lords considers an amendment to the Children & Families Bill to teach sex and relationships education

Professor Olga van den Akker provided a live commentary last night (27/01/14) to Eddie Nestor’s questions on today’s proposed House of Lords consideration of an amendment to the Children & Families Bill, which would require all state-funded schools in England to teach sex and relationships education.

It should be compulsory to teach Sex Education at secondary schools to inform boys to respect girls (and vice versa), according to prominent campaigners.

In a letter to The Times, the group, states that schools are in the best position to address the problem, helping girls to protect themselves against unwanted advances and abuse, and educating boys to develop a more respectful attitude.

Although state comprehensive schools are required to provide sex education, independent schools and academies are not. The House of Lords has tabled a discussion which could amend the current law so that all state funded schools may be required to educate pupils on sex and relationships.

THE LETTER: (from the Times, 27th January 2014)

Compulsory sex and relationships education would be a first step towards tackling the rising levels of abuse against women and girls

Sir, Tomorrow the House of Lords considers a vital amendment to the Children & Families Bill which would require all state-funded schools in England to teach sex and relationships education (SRE). We call on peers across the benches to support this amendment as a critical child protection measure.

Girls in the UK experience high levels of sexual and other abuse from boyfriends, friends and relatives. One in three girls experiences groping or other unwanted sexual touching at school, and there are ongoing trials of men and boys for grooming and sexual exploitation of vulnerable girls across the country. We are still lifting the lid on the scale of abuse of women and girls by Jimmy Savile and others under Operation Yewtree.

Schools should be places where children feel safe and supported, and have a vital role to play in helping to develop healthy and respectful attitudes and behaviour. This is not always the case, and numerous recent reports and cases have highlighted how tackling abuse and exploitation is extremely patchy. At a time when violent pornography online is becoming the default sex-educator for some young people, this is woefully inadequate.

The proposed amendment by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch and Baroness Hughes of Stretford would ensure that children are taught about sexual consent, and learn how to develop consensual and respectful relationships. We are simply storing up problems for the future if we do not give young people this essential information.

There is already cross-party consensus on the need to prevent violence against women and girls before it begins, but very little action to achieve this. Compulsory sex and relationships education would be a vital first step on this road.

Justine Roberts, Mumsnet; Polly Neate, Women's Aid; Holly Dustin, End Violence Against Women Coalition; Professor Liz Kelly, Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit; Marai Larasi, Imkaan; Laura Bates, Everydaysexism; Lee Eggleston, Rape Crisis England and Wales; Professor Clare McGlynn, University of Durham; Dr Miranda Horvath, Middlesex University; Sandra Horley, Refuge; Carlene Firmin, MsUnderstood; Kristina Massey, Canterbury Christ University; Mia Scally, Middlesex University

29th January 2014 - Dr Miranda Horvath provides an update:

You may have seen that the Lords voted against the SRE amendment yesterday. The Government's case is that it should be left to schools to decide how these issues are dealt with and were clearly concerned that the amendment would make SRE compulsory in Primary Schools. Unfortunately, I think this shows a lack of understanding of what is going on in some young people's lives - one of our members is currently working with 2 seven year old girls who were sexually assaulted by boys in their class. Teachers were extremely unconfident in knowing how to deal with the situation and how to support both the boys and the girls. SRE is only a part of the solution to such problems but is an important part, alongside adequate policies and staff training.

So, it is very disappointing but there was a good debate around the issues with mention of The Times letter. This clearly helped increase the pressure, and it's telling that the amendment went to a vote and wasn't withdrawn. If you like reading Parliamentary debates the link is here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/140128-0002.htm#140128102000889

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