Guidance needed on sex education, teachers admit

21 July 2017

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MOST schools want more help and support in teaching sex and relationships, new research has suggested.

A report produced jointly by Coram Life Education, a charity that provides personal, social, health, and economic (PSHE) education, and the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group estimates that two-thirds of schools would like more guidance on statutory requirements, and three-quarters want more advice on how to consult parents.

In 2019, sex and relationships education (SRE) will become mandatory in all primary and secondary schools. At present, it is compulsory only for schools run by local councils; academies or free schools are free to ignore the national curriculum.

Coram and Ecclesiastical consulted 85 head teachers, PSHE co-ordinators, and SRE teachers throughout the UK for the report, which was launched last week in the House of Lords.

Among the findings: the biggest issue teachers said that they faced was how to manage “friendship issues”; one teacher in three wanted more help to identify what children needed to learn from SRE; and teachers felt least confident when covering puberty, reproduction, staying safe, and consent.

An open letter has been sent to The Guardian, praising the Government for making SRE compulsory, and calling for guidance on abortion, LGBT equality, and contraception to be included in the lessons. Among the signatories are a number of Christian and other faith leaders, including the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson; the Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John; the Revd Steve Chalke, a Baptist minister; and the former Bishops of Worcester and Bolton.

“It is essential that the SRE that schools provide is accurate, balanced and promotes an acceptance of diversity,” the letter states. “We therefore urge that new statutory guidance on schools’ teaching of RSE should require them to actively promote the acceptance of LGBT people, and provide, for pupils of sufficient maturity, factual information about contraception and abortion.”

Coram and Ecclesiastical have launched a new set of lesson plans, resources, and teacher guides based on the DfE’s recommendations for SRE. About 200,000 children already being taught Coram’s programme will benefit from it from September.

The managing director of the charity’s education programmes, Harriet Gill, said: “Only four years ago, Ofsted stated that primary schools were ‘leaving pupils ill-prepared for physical and emotional changes during puberty often experienced before children reach secondary school’.

“We believe this programme is an important step forward in meeting children and young people’s needs, and entitlement, to education in healthy friendships and relationships, puberty and reproduction, staying safe and consent.”

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