I have been asked by constituents to share my views about Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools.
I believe that age-appropriate SRE should be a statutory subject in all state-funded schools and at the 2015 general election I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to introduce compulsory SRE in order to teach children about mutual respect and the importance of healthy relationships.
As you are aware, the Children and Social Work Bill is currently making its way through Parliament and I agree that this Bill offers an opportunity for the Government to make the changes in our education system that are needed in order 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 this Bill, an Opposition-backed amendment would have required local authorities to ensure pupils educated in their area receive accurate, age-appropriate Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), including SRE. My Labour colleagues on the Committee that considered the Bill voted in favour of this amendment but unfortunately, the Conservative Government voted against it and it was defeated.
However, the Government did commit to look at how access to effective SRE and PSHE can be improved and has previously stated that it is keeping the case for further action on PSHE and SRE delivery under review. I can assure you that I will follow progress on this closely and will continue to press the Government to introduce statutory SRE.
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.
I will continue to support efforts to get SRE on the statute book.