I have been contacted by several constituents about Sex and Relationships Education in schools, and the related 'SRE Matters' campaign by Barnardo's.
I believe that age-appropriate Sex and Relationships Education should be a statutory subject in all state-funded schools. At the 2015 General Election I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to introduce compulsory Sex and Relationships Education in order to teach children about mutual respect and the importance of healthy relationships.
The Children and Social Work Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. This Bill offers an opportunity for the Government to make the changes in our education system. We need to protect the best interests and the health of children and ensure that young people are provided with the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe, happy and healthy in the 21st century.
During the Committee Stage of the Children and Social Work Bill, a Labour-backed amendment to the Bill was moved. This would have required local authorities to ensure pupils educated in their area receive accurate, age-appropriate Personal, Social and Health Education, including Sex and Relationships Education. My Labour colleagues on the Committee that considered the Bill voted in favour of this amendment but the Conservative Government voted against it and it was defeated.
The Conservative Government did commit to look at how access to effective Sex and Relationships Education, and Personal, Social and Health Education, can be improved and has previously stated that it is keeping the case for further action on both subjects delivery under review. I will follow progress on this closely, and my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Conservative Government to introduce statutory Sex and Relationships Education.
I also believe that more should be done to drive up standards in the subject. As well as being a statutory subject, the programme of study should reflect the challenges young people face today including new guidance, updated to reflect the onset of widespread internet and smartphone usage. Far more needs to be done to equip young people with the resilience and knowledge they need to stay healthy and safe in relationships both off and online and to spot the signs and feel confident to report manipulation and exploitation.