Sex and relationship is to be made compulsory in all schools in England, the government has announced.
Education Secretary Justine Greening announced today (March 1) that all secondary schools will be required to teach Relationships and Sex Education, while all primary schools will be required to teach age-appropriate Relationships Education.
Previously, sex education was only compulsory in council-run schools, but the new legislation will extend that to cover free schools and academies - though parents will still have the right to withdraw their children from these classes.
The news comes following a long campaign to update the current guidelines on sex and relationship education, which have not been updated in 17 years - long before the advent of social media and the proliferation of online pornography.
In a written statement, Ms Greening said: "The statutory guidance for SRE was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated. It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyberbullying, 'sexting' and staying safe online.
She continued: "Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from sex education.
"Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs of the local community; and, as now, faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith."
While the news has been welcomed by sexual health campaigners, there is currently no guarantee that compulsory sex and relation education will extend to LGBT relationships - something campaigners say must be included to ensure equality of education for all pupils.
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A representative for Student Pride, which held a discussion panel with Attitude
on the issue of sex and relationship education in London last week, said: "Compulsory SRE will liberate a generation of young people - we're very pleased about this announcement.
"We're now looking at the details because it must also be same-sex inclusive and cover gender identities for LGBT+ young people to be freed of growing up under a toxic shame of their identity."
Reacting to the news, Attitude
editor Cliff Joannou said: "This is a huge step towards educating and empowering millions of young people in understanding and respecting their bodies, and those of others.
"We need to keep the pressure up on the government to make sure that LGBT+ relationships are included in all SRE classes. Doing so will make huge strides towards tackling gay and trans bullying and making LGBT+ students feel less invisible from the school system."
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