Over the weekend there has been a lot of twitter action and concern about the inclusion of statements about sexual orientation in SRE policies. I am delighted to see from @wesstreeting that a number of schools have been in touch with Stonewall today to seek their advice. It is clear that the Department for Education Guidance on sex and relationships education needs to be updated.
I was involved in the development of the guidance in 2000 and it seems at least a lifetime ago. Since it was published we have a new government. We have the Equality Act. We have an education system with ever greater diversity of schools. We have a greater awareness and focus on a range of issues including sexual exploitation, sexual diversity and sexting/online bullying. We have Equal Marriage on the statute books. Importantly we also have over a decade of learning from the Healthy Schools Programme and the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, and with that comes a much more robust evidence base which demonstrates clearly what works in the development and delivery of inclusive and sex positive SRE.
I got up stupidly early this morning to read a number of them and whilst I have not spoken to anyone in the schools so it is only a hunch, my assessment is that it is most likely the majority are simply copy and pasting parts from other policies and the DfEE (as was) guidance 0116/2000. In a number of them there is an incoherence (and in at least one the Family Education Trust named as an Authority) which suggests that at least in some there may well be less a wilful desire to stigmatise, and more a skills gap -people being asked to develop and ratify policies for SRE as an undervalued area of the curriculum, with less training and support than we would hope. As a result of SRE being undervalued the authors may not have the expertise to develop the policy based on the law and best practice and governors not trained to understand how to scrutinise these effectively as they do not know themselves what best practice looks like.
Whilst this is far far less than ideal and shows how much more needs to be done I still think it is unhelpful to describe these policies as reintroducing Section 28. You can read why here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-blake/section-28-banish-forever_b_3185403.html.
The National Children's Bureau published a document on PSHE policy and practice which includes a framework for a PSHE policy which you can read here http://www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/media/2561/pshe_wholeschool_2006.pdf.
We know what 21st Century SRE looks like, we simply need government guidance to reflect and promote it.
The Sex Education Forum @sex_ed_forum, the PSHE Association @PSHEassociation, Stonewall @stonewall and Brook @brookcharity