UPDATE: In May 2017, the Children and Social Work Act became law in the UK. It makes Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) mandatory for all pupils, extending the requirement from just local authority maintained schools to all schools. The Act itself does not stipulate what the education should consist of but enables the Secretary of State for Education to introduce guidance. It also provides for exemptions for students on moral or religious grounds but, again, provides no further details.
The next government (following the General Election on 8 June) will be required to introduce regulations to implement the Act. It is essential that those regulations and accompanying guidance provide for high quality, age-appropriate SRE that allows all students to make informed choices and exercise control over their bodies and reproduction.
Despite evidence that sex and relationship education improves sexual health and reduces the number of unintended pregnancies, such education is highly variable around the world. Often sex and relationship education is provided by teachers who have received limited training in the subject and with only limited parental engagement. In some countries, such education is not provided at all. In the past, this led only to simple ignorance, but now the understanding of young people of sexual matters very often is greatly affected by ubiquitous and free adult entertainment.
Research has shown that a majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make decisions about sex and relationships responsibly, leaving the individuals vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.
Comprehensive sex education enables young people to make informed decisions about their sexuality and health. Such education helps to build life skills and increase responsible behaviours. In addition, since sex education is based on human-rights principles, it helps to advance gender equality and the empowerment of young people.
Among the many organizations supporting sex education are the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
We’re asking the government and political parties to support statutory sex and relationships education.
What you can do
- Ask your political representative to support efforts to make sex education mandatory
- If you have school-age children, ask their school(s) how well they perform on providing quality sex and relationship education