This week I got all fired up and wrote a letter to my local MP and have even received a reply already (he is writing to Gove on my behalf and will be in touch when he replies….. I am holding my breath…)
Anyhow I figured since so many of you are uber busy creatures it maybe an idea for me to provide a template letter on my blog for you to tweak to your hearts content and email off to your own MP. Me being an uber busy sausage myself this letter is actually one I adapted from the wonderful and lovely @sian_rowland (Website and blog) (Thanks for letting me share!).
After my edits it’s probably not the perfect letter (personally I am better at ranty blogposts than formal letters!) but its a step in the right direction and please do edit away from this starting point (and if you have any suggestions for improvements then feel free to share them 🙂 )
Please please do take the time to do this – it could make the difference we need. You can find out who your MP is here.
<Insert your address and date etc>
Dear MP <Insert Name>
‘I’m writing to you about my concerns over Nadine Dorries MP, her ten minute abstinence bill and her comments in the media. I am an <insert something about who you are and why you are concerned- eg. worried parent, teacher etc etc>
I recently read with disbelief Ms Dorries’ blog post in which she says,
‘The thrust was that girls as young as seven are taught about intercourse, safe sex, how to apply a condom on a banana, where to get condoms, how to detect an STI and that they don’t need to tell their parents anything.’
She provides no evidence for these statements and as far as I am concerned they are absolutely and categorically untrue and I’m horrified that parents might think this happens in class, I have heard from several respected PSHE advisers* that this is just not something that would happen in schools. SRE for seven year olds is about age appropriate emotions and positive relationships (which at this age is pretty much ‘my friends and my family.) She also only mentions girl which is very worrying, boys have rights and responsibilities in relation to sex and relationships education too. Schools also understand their duty in informing and involving parents. If parents are unduly concerned, they may withdraw their children from SRE lessons (NB but not from the Science parts) although less than 1% actually choose to do so.
Abstinence is already a part of SRE for secondary schools but only a part. Abstinence-only teaching, as is popular in the States simply doesn’t work (You can read more here: http://www.ncb.org.uk/pdf/sef_briefing_abonly_200405b.pdf ) . Young people need to be given the skills and attitudes as well as the knowledge in SRE. ‘Delay’ teaching in which young people explore waiting until they are ready and in a stable relationships (including marriage), works much better.
It really worries me that as the country with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, we’re looking toward the country with the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world for inspiration. There is clear and rigorous evidence that Sex and Relationships Education when taught properly does work – you can read more here: http://www.ncb.org.uk/pdf/SEF_does_SRE_work_2010.pdf.
On the Vanessa show, Dorries also suggested that “if girls said no more often, there wouldn’t be so much sexual abuse”. This is an unforgivable thing to say and a horrific reflection to those who have ever suffered sexual abuse, both girls and boys. “Saying No” in no way prevents abuse and to say that it does is despicable victim blaming.
SRE does need to be taught better in all schools but with people like Nadine Dorries and her interference and micromanaging of the topic will ensure that SRE is never well taught and that teenage pregnancy and sexual health problems (where support has been withdrawn in most areas because of funding) will soar.
What we actually need is clear legislation and guidance from the government about SRE and support for schools in training and delivery of SRE. Issues such as sexual bullying, sexualisation, homophobia, pornography are becoming challenging areas for schools to tackle, and teachers desperately need help, training and support in tackling this as well as covering basic SRE to a much higher standard than it is currently. Without adequate SRE, young people will seek information via the media including the internet and with fewer and fewer local authority advisers in post, and a lack of guidance and support from the government, schools have no one to turn to.
I’m very much hoping that you will consider speaking out against this bill. Your fellow MPs need educating in this area as demonstrated by the 67 for (as opposed to 61 against) vote of her ten minute bill.
I truly believe that we need better, age appropriate relationships education in this country that addresses the needs of all children regardless of sex, religion and background.
Many thanks for your support during these difficult times and please get in contact if you want to discuss any of these issues further.
*By this I mean me and Sian 🙂 but you can add your own evidence here, if you have it!