The Government is bringing forward plans to introduce legislation that will see every child from the age of 4 taught sex education, according to a written statement by the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. The British Youth Council welcomes the news that more young people will be empowered with sex education and warns it must be high quality and accompanied by citizenship education.
The British Youth Council have been working to convince the Government to introduce statutory and compulsory high-quality citizenship and sex and relationship education to the curriculum for a number of years. In 2013, the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report ‘A Curriculum for Life’ concluded life skills education in schools fell well short of its full potential and little has been done to address the report’s findings since.
The British Youth Council were first aware of a possible change in the Government’s stance on PSHE last month when the Government indicated it was ‘actively considering the case for further action on PSHE’. The Government’s comments were made in response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee report on young people and the issues of racism and religious discrimination.
The British Youth Council believes that students should leave our education systems equipped with the skills, knowledge and experience to become active, well-informed and confident members of their local, national and global communities. This means making sure that education covers politics and democratic life, as well as social issues such as sex and relationship education.
It’s evident that young people feel that the current citizenship education and SRE curriculum provisions are inadequate and that they are being denied a better understanding of themselves, relationships, society and politics. Young people have repeatedly called for a curriculum for life, most recently in UK Youth Parliament’s 2016 Make Your Mark ballot of 978,216 young people, when the issue was voted a top priority.
The British Youth Council believes the current scope of the citizenship curriculum is too narrow and should encompass wider political and constitutional rights, as well as social issues including global citizenship and sustainability, legal rights and financial literacy, human rights, liberation, diversity and information regarding mental health.
According to political commentators, it is likely that the introduction of a compulsory sex education would also include a change in teacher training. The British Youth Council believes that Government should ensure there is sufficient and appropriate training, development and specialist support for teachers dealing with the complex and sensitive issues of citizenship education and sex and relationship education. Teacher training must ensure that those delivering these programmes are confident, competent, impartial, consistent and professional. The information and training provided on consent, abuse, and sexual violence should be inclusive of all gender and sexual identities.
Anna Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council said:
“It’s absolutely fantastic to hear the Government are introducing statutory sex education, however, we’d like to see sex education that it is high quality and accompanied by citizenship education. We’ve been campaigning on this issues for a number of years and we’re delighted that the Government is finally listening to young people.
“We first learned of a change in Government policy last month in response to the Youth Select Committee’s report on racism and religious discrimination, in which we repeated our calls for compulsory PSHE.
“We look forwad to working with the Government and partners such as the PSHE Association to ensure this is implemented well at all schools across the UK.”