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Make sex education compulsory, MPs urge

06 March 2015

iSTOCK

THE Government should back sex-and-relationships education (SRE) that is "age-appropriate" for all school-age children by making it compulsory, a group of MPs said last month.

The conclusion that the quality of SRE would be improved by giving statutory status to Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education (PSHE), of which it is part, was reached in an inquiry into the issue by the Commons Education Committee, which reported last month. "Young people have a right to information that will keep them safe," the chairman of the committee, Graham Stuart MP, said.

The inquiry followed an OFSTED finding that PSHE required improvement in 40 per cent of schools. Its report said that PSHE was being squeezed in many schools because of a lack of clarity about its status. The Government's strategy for improving the subject was weak.

Currently, primary schools are not required to provide SRE beyond basic biology included in the national curriculum. Secondary schools must teach pupils aged 14 to 16 about sexually transmitted diseases. The Government has said that it would consider the report's findings carefully. Labour has already agreed to give PSHE statutory status if it wins the election.

The Christian charity CARE, which campaigns for parental involvement in SRE, and for parents' right to withdraw their children from what they consider inappropriate teaching, said in a statement on the report that it would oppose moves to change the status of SRE. "We support the current model, because it allows each school to give best regard to the cultural and religious backgrounds of their pupils. A centralised approach would mean less involvement for parents, who should be given more say in what their children are taught."

A Church of England spokesman said: "C of E schools have always been committed to SRE that gives children information appropriate to their age, and enables them to engage with the spiritual and moral aspects of relationships. In all schools with a religious foundation, SRE programmes can be framed within the beliefs of the school, though SRE programmes must take account of legislation and DfE guidance."

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