Sex and relationship education could become compulsory in South Yorkshire schools

The Government has hinted that it will bring in a law making sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools.

Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 7:32 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 7:52 am
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Ministers have faced mounting pressure from across the political spectrum to bring about the change following concerns children are being left ill-equipped to cope with the new realities of online porn, cyber bullying and sexting.

Repeatedly asked during a Commons adjournment debate on the topic if the Government will bring in legislation, Education Minister Caroline Dinenage said ministers are 'looking at it'.

Ms Dinenage said it is important that children and young people 'have access to effective, factually accurate, age appropriate, sex and relationship education'.

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She said: "This is a subject the Government takes very seriously and we have welcomed the extremely helpful input from many members across the House.

"The Government is very committed to exploring all the options to improve delivery of sex and relationship education and personal, social and health education, and to ensuring we address both the quality of delivery and the accessibility - to support all children developing positive, healthy relationships and being able to thrive in modern Britain."

The comments came as figures released by the charity Plan International UK found that more than eight in 10 Britons support sex and relationship education (SRE) being compulsory in all schools.

And Conservative, Labour and Green MPs all pressed the minister on whether the Government will back legislative proposals to change the law.

Labour MP Stella Creasy said there is recognition across the Commons 'that this is the right thing to do' and raised concerns that with Brexit looming the capacity for the Government to bring about legislative change further down the line may be diminished.

She urged the Government to back an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, which would make SRE mandatory.

Responding, Ms Dinenage said: "The Secretary of State has been very clear that we will set out plans to move forward as part of that Bill."

Pressed again on if the Government will make the lessons compulsory, the minister said: "Yes, we have agreed we are looking at it as we speak and we will set out our next plans for inclusion in the Children and Social Work Bill.

"But this has to be got absolutely right, it needs to be done sensitively, it needs to be done carefully, it needs to be done with cross-party support."

Conservative MP Maria Miller, the chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee who brought the debate, said children are losing out because their schools are failing to give them the teaching and advice they need.

She said: "We need children to be able to make informed choices, we need children to understand that sexting is illegal, that it could affect their own mental health, leave them open to extortion, and limit their future careers potentially as well.

"That pornography doesn't reflect reality, that bullying behaviour online is just as unacceptable as bullying behaviour offline."