Plans for Relationships and Sex Education don't go far enough

Despite endemic levels of sexual violence and harassment, Government plans still fall short of what children need and more is needed to prevent abuse.

Responding to the release of draft guidance on what schools should cover in Relationships and Sex Education today (19 July), Rachel Krys, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: 

The EVAW Coalition and our members, who do frontline work supporting victims of abuse, have campaigned for compulsory Relationship and Sex Education for years. We know that establishing healthy attitudes to sex and relationships at a young age is one of the best ways to try to prevent abuse in the long term.

“Two years ago many were outraged when the extent of sexual harassment and violence in schools was revealed by a committee of MPs and in response the Government committed to introducing compulsory Relationships and Sex Education.

“We welcome the clear inclusion in the draft guidance of the need to teach about different forms of abuse of women and girls, including sexual violence and harassment, FGM and coercive control. It is also clear that the law should be taught, and that schools should take the Equality Act into account when developing teaching in this area. We appreciate the reference to ‘whole school approach’ which ensure school bullying and equality policies are fully aligned with the teaching of RSE.

“We are concerned about, and will be asking the Government to reconsider, the suggested regulations for primary schools, which are inadequate and vague on obligations to teach about relationships, respect, boundaries and the law. The document acknowledges that information and good teaching are critical to preventing abuse but fails to go the distance required for pupils in primary schools.

“While it is good to see acknowledged that parents may not have the right to withdraw children and young people from Sex Education lessons indefinitely, we feel this is an area where the guidance does not go far enough. We urge the Government to reconsider these sections, to centre children’s rights, and to be clear that parents have no entitlement to stop children receiving critical education which can keep them and others safe.

“#MeToo should have been a wake up call. Statistics released by the ONS today reveal more than 150,000 people experienced rape and serious sexual violence in the last year. Sexual harassment and violence is endemic in our society and for too many children we’re leaving it to the internet to teach them about sex and relationships. It is essential that the Government stops dragging its feet and schools are compelled to introduce effective relationships and sex education as a matter of urgency.”

The consultation on the draft guidance closes on the 7th November 2018.

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