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Help shape sex education in England

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Sex and relationships education, education minister, consultation, parents, teachers, young peopleThere have been numerous calls for an update.

The government has announced that it is asking parents, teachers and young people to help shape a new relationships and sex education curriculum for England, that will help them to stay safe and to face the challenges of the modern world.

The current statutory guidance for teaching Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) was introduced in 2000.

It fails to address the risks to children which have grown in prevalence in recent years, and issues including online pornography, sexting and staying safe online.

The guidance is being updated after legislation was passed by Parliament earlier this year to make relationships education compulsory in all primary schools and relationships and sex education compulsory in all secondary schools.

As part of that process, an eight-week call for evidence will invite views on age-appropriate content on mental wellbeing, staying safe online and LGBT issues in the updated subjects.

The move to make Relationships and Sex Education compulsory was welcomed by the teaching profession and organisations such as Barnardo’s, Stonewall, the Catholic Education Service, the NSPCC, the Terrence Higgins Trust and the End Violence Against Women coalition (EVAW).

And recent surveys show that 91 per cent of parents believe all pupils should receive lessons to teach them about the risks of sexting, as well as other issues such as contact from strangers online; and 74 per cent of 11-15 years old believe that children would be safer if they had age-appropriate classes on relationships and sex education.

Currently only pupils attending local-authority run secondary schools – around a third of secondary schools – are guaranteed to be offered Sex and Relationship Education as it is currently provided.

And the number of secondary schools that have to teach sex education has actually diminished as more convert into academies, and do not have to follow the national curriculum.

Although many academy chains teach pupils sex education as part of their own curricula, campaigners have demanded parity with what is expected of Local Authority-maintained schools.

A report published in February 2015 by the Education Select Committee said sex and relationships education should be compulsory in all schools.

This ‘call for evidence’ asks questions and looks for suggestions to gather views from people across England from all backgrounds on the content of this subject.

It will look at establishing what teachers think they should be teaching their pupils to help them navigate the modern world they are growing up in; how parents expect their children to be taught this topic in a safe and age-appropriate way; and what children themselves think they would benefit from understanding the most, and the online risks they are concerned with.

Click here to take part.

Ian Bauckham, who was awarded the CBE in 2017 for services to education, will lead this process.

He is CEO of a multi-academy trust, executive head of a large Church of England comprehensive school for 11-18 year-olds in Kent and, as a National Leader of Education (NLE), works with many other schools in the region and more widely.

Bauckham said: “Since I started work as a teacher over thirty years ago, enormous changes have taken place both in the lives of young people and in the wider world in which we are preparing them to live.

“I hope that the call for evidence being launched now gives us the chance to find out about the best teaching and to improve provision for all our young people in all types of school.

“The teaching of this important subject in schools is supported by the wider public, and there have been numerous calls for an update.”

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “It is unacceptable that Relationships and Sex Education guidance has not been updated for almost 20 years especially given the online risks, such as sexting and cyber bullying, our children and young people face.

“Young people must have an education that teaches them the importance of healthy and stable relationships.

“This call for evidence is about giving teachers, parents and especially young people a chance to help shape that new approach and I’d urge them to take part.”

To take part, click here.

The deadline is 12 February 2018.

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