Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Hurrah: some sense on statutory sex and relationships education

Just back from Newsnight talking about the Cross Party Inquiry into unplanned pregnancy chaired by @AmberRuddMP.  @_calendargirl, a young mum herself was fantastically articulate and the introductory film in Hastings and young people from the Respond Academy was factually accurate about the success of the teenage pregnancy strategy and enabled young people's views to be heard at the outset of the item.

Will blog some more about Newsnight tomorrow but for now some more about the Morning After Report which will be published on the website tomorrow;

I am absolutely delighted that the inquiry has recommended that sex and relationships education is made statutory with a really strong focus on relationships.  For decades young people have been telling us that SRE is 'too little, too late and too biological (phrase stolen from my time at the Sex Education Forum over 13 years ago) and that it does not focus enough on relationships, emotions and real life dilemmas.

This report is timely given that we are still awaiting the outcomes of the government's review of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education and the separate National Curriculum review.  Young people at Brook submitted a report to the PSHE Education Consultation in November 2011 which identified only 6% of young people said they received most of their relationships information from SRE teachers and 15% said they learn most about relationships from one or both parents.

Some real myths about pregnancy were also revealed including 59% had heard a woman couldn't get pregnant if the man withdraws before ejaculating and 58% that a woman couldn't get pregnant during their period. Their top recommendations for developing 21st Century SRE emphasise that the Rudd Inquiry Report is right to say we need to do more about relationships.  Their recommendations included SRE addressing body confidence, love, how to treat a boy or girlfriend, whether they were normal and how to behave in a relationship.  You can read the full report here

And you can join over 3000 people by signing the young people's petition for 21st Century SRE here

As part of protecting young people well, the report sets out the need to teach about consent and protect young people from sexual exploitation.  Good education must enable both young men and young women to develop skills and confidence in asking, giving and refusing consent. Through our clinical and support services, as well as our education work Brook understands how critical developing understanding and changing attitudes towards consent is to eradicating gender based and sexual violence including rape.  Our sexual behaviours Traffic Light safeguarding tool at funded by the Department for Education is an important new tool to work with young people on healthy sexual behaviours.

The Coalition Government has been resistant to making PSHE statutory until now.  The policy direction remains that schools should be freed up from the pressures of a crowded curriculum. Brook urges government to consider this report and accept its recommendations.  And if yet again government decides not to make PSHE Education statutory my question will continue to be this;

We know that good quality SRE is an entitlement for all and has an important role in protecting children and young people from abuse, exploitation and rape, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections so how will government fulfil its responsibilities and ensure that all children and young people receive that education as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which the UK signed up to in 1989? 

The Rudd Inquiry report (The Morning After) also set out the importance of building on the success of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy which ended in 2010 achieving a 24.3% decline in under 18 conceptions, and a 35% reduction in conceptions leading to live births.  The report makes a number of other important recommendations including;

  • ensuring equal access to contraceptive services including Long Acting Reversible Contraception 
  • better training for professionals including health visitors to provide contraceptive advice 
  • the importance of engaging young men in education and sexual health decision making
  • the importance of effective commissioning in the new Health System and the role of third sector in promoting sexual health
Young people from Brook contributed evidence to the inquiry and the report from young people can be found here

The report is published.  We will be working to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

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