There’s been disappointing news for supporters of statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and sex and relationships education (SRE) in Parliament this week. Following on from the recommendation in the Education Select Committee’s report on PSHE/SRE to make the subject statutory, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan formally responded and said that statutory status “would do little to tackle the most pressing problems with the subject, which are to do with the variable quality of its provision”. We disagree with this analysis – surely putting PSHE/SRE on the same footing as other subjects would help to improve overall standards.
For example, the Sex Education Forum's recent report, Heads or Tails, emphasised the importance of SRE, with their survey finding that young people were not getting consistent, relevant, and necessary information on topics ranging from exploitation and abuse to consent and places to go for help. If all schools were mandated to teach about these topics, it would help safeguard countless young people.
A debate on Wednesday (10 Feb) in the House of Lords on PSHE education, called by Brook’s President Baroness Massey, showed that there is cross-party support in the upper chamber for the subject, while in a written answer to a question on LGBT-inclusive SRE, Education Minister Edward Timpson said: “We expect schools to ensure that young people feel that SRE education is relevant to them.” Timpson also recommended the SRE Supplementary Advice, issued in 2014 by Brook, the PSHE Association and the Sex Education Forum, in his reply.
An article on the political background to the SRE debate by journalist Cathy Newman underlined that many senior ministers support statutory PSHE and SRE, but strongly implied that progress is being blocked by the Prime Minister.
The campaign for statutory status will continue, and in the meantime Brook will carry on our vital education work with schools across the country, helping prepare young people for life’s challenges, and giving them the confidence they need to make safer, healthier choices.