Just a quick blog post from me to clarify how I feel about statutory versus compulsory sex education from my perspective as a mother and as a sex educator.
Often the terms seem to be used interchangeably and parents panic about state interference in their children’s lives etc. Currently the only bit compulsory for a child to attend is the science aspects of reproduction found in the national curriculum. It is statutory for schools to provide sex and relationship education in secondary schools (and a Sex Ed policy for both primary and secondary schools but primary schools only have to state whether or not they will cover it over and above the primary science curriculum which I discussed here). Parents have a right of withdrawal from Sex and relationships education (apart from NC science) but in reality less than 1% of parents actually do. therefore it is not compulsory for a child to attend.
Currently I am really worried about the state of sex education (and PSHE) in this country. Having made huge progress in outlining a fab curriculum and really good Sex and Relationship education reviews and responses. The new government has thrown the baby out with the bath water and started all again with a separate PSHE review (which I will be blogging about soon and why it is being treated as distinct to the other subjects I don’t know) and made an announcement last week they have no intention of making Sex Education statutory. Schools desperately need clear guidance and leadership and support on the content of sex and relationships education. Too many young people are not getting an adequate provision of these essential lessons and that is alot down to muddle and confusion from the government and a lack of leadership. We have had the same completely useless guidance document for SRE for *big shouty angry voice* ELEVEN YEARS NOW and it hasn’t been updated despite the environment in schools changing dramatically especially with things like section 28 being repealled three years after this document was published.
Parents, schools, teachers, students all desperately need a clear direction and vision on sex education (I have such a vision- why don’t you put me in charge 😉 ). The subject has to be clarified and taken seriously. It quite simply has to be made statutory. However personally I don’t necessarily think it should be compulsory for all young people. I thought the notion of it being compulsory for year 11 (15-16 year olds) was a sort of compromise but the reality would never ever work out as Sex Education is going to come bottom of the pecking order in GCSE year and probably quite rightly so, I think sex education in Y11 is to be honest too little too late and I would prefer my daughter to focus on her exams in that year than anything else. Personally I think parents probably should maintain a right of withdrawal especially in the under 14’s (and woe betide any teacher who introduces any Anti-Choice propaganda or homophobia into my daughters lessons- I shall be withdrawing her and kicking up such a mahoosive stink!). However overall it is such a small number of parents and young people affected (<1% when the majority of parents actually want schools to provide sex education) and what really annoys me about this whole debate is that it gets sidelined into a parental rights issue (when its a minority of parents actually bothered- although there is also a children’s rights issue*) when actually this whole debate should focus on providing proper guidance and support for schools in delivering this essential subject by providing a clear curriculum rather than the complete cop-out of “down to schools discretion” etc etc, because when the government cops out, the local authority cops out (and doesn’t renew the contracts of all the PSHE and SRE support staff like me due to “cuts”- *bitter voice*) and then the schools cop out and then the young people miss out. And that just sucks. It really does. 😦
*did you know existing guidance and legislation possibly contravenes childrens rights legislation? In secondary schools with 6th forms (not FE) parents still have right of withdrawal in sex education even if that young person is in 6th form and post compulsory education age and over the age of consent?