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Government rejects calls for compulsory sex and relationship education in UK schools

2016-02-11
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has rejected recommendations for compulsory and inclusive sex education throughout schools in the United Kingdom. Last year, Morgan came under fire for avoiding a decision around proposed statutory changes to the PSHE (personal social and health education) charter to be more inclusive in sex education. A report tabled by the Education Select Committee had called for the Department of Education to “develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and sex education as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools”. Among its findings, three quarters of gay men were shown to have received inadequate relationship education in the classroom, and one in five men did not know HIV could be contracted without the use of condoms. Morgan has now revealed she has rejected the proposals in a written letter to MP Neil Carmichael, acknowledging the report but declining to take on its recommendations. “I agree with your Committee and the signatories of the letter that PSHE is a crucial part of preparing young people for life,” she said. “The vast majority of schools already make provision for PSHE and while the Government agrees that making PSHE statutory would give it equal status with other subjects, the Government is concerned that this would do little to tackle the most pressing problems with the subject, which are to do with the variable quality of its provision, as evidenced by Ofsted’s finding that 40% of PSHE teaching is less than good. “As such, while we will continue to keep the status of PSHE in the curriculum under review, our immediate focus will be on improving the quality of PSHE teaching in our schools.” Morgan - who also serves as Minister for Women and Equalities - said the Department of Education would work with a group of leading headteachers and practitioners to produce "an action plan and recommendations for improving PSHE, including publishing a comprehensive PSHE toolkit for schools". "This will help schools plan and develop their own PSHE curriculum, help them assess learning and impact and set out how schools can deliver PSHE as part of a broad offer to pupils and parents. I have also received representations about updating the existing SRE guidance which I will carefully consider," she said. Group of teenagers sitting in classroom with raised hands. Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust Deborah Gold said she was disappointed the Government would not follow the Committee’s recommendations “despite repeated calls from MPs, teachers and health organisations”. “This means it will continue to be delivered according to the whims of individual headteachers rather than the needs of young people. We are extremely disappointed,” she said. “In her statement on the subject, the Minister says she wishes instead to focus on addressing the huge variability in the quality of PSHE and SRE, which ironically is the very reason why giving the subject statutory status is absolutely essential. “In our survey of young gay and bisexual men in 2014, we found 75% had never received information on relationships and being attracted to other guys and 33% had never received information about how HIV is passed on. “The number of young men diagnosed with HIV has doubled in the past 10 years, yet the Government seems willing to continue to allow a situation where some schools simply don’t have to discuss these topics beyond basic information in a science lesson. “We will continue to fight for PSHE and SRE in all schools and for all young people. We don’t call for statutory status as the solution to all our problems, we call for it as the bare minimum.” More stories: Duncan James reveals how his daughter feels about having a gay dad Will Young admits gay ‘shame’ has left him addicted to porn and alcohol