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Date Published
February 14, 2017
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An open letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening, co-signed by MPs from across parties and leading charities, will be delivered on Valentine’s Day (14 February) asking her to, “…bring forward legislation that will help give young people the knowledge and skills to have respectful, healthy loving relationships throughout their lives.”

The letter, which is co-signed by MPs from across parties including Maria Miller MP, Sarah Champion MP, Stella Creasy and Caroline Lucas MP, and by Mumsnet, Girlguiding UK, the Everyday Sexism Project and women’s groups, outlines that compulsory Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is needed to tackle endemic levels of sexual harassment in schools. (Full letter text available on request.)

Recent statistics show that one in five girls have been sent unwanted pornographic images or videos, which the NSPCC reports often results in feelings of embarrassment and humiliation. Research by Ofsted in March 2015 found less than half of schools had implemented an acceptable policy for technology in school, alongside ‘inconsistent’ training for teachers.

The Valentine’s Day letter says that SRE should be age appropriate and evidence based, it should refer to the law on sexual consent and abuse, and it should be informed by new technologies, in light of school leaders reporting ‘endemic levels’ of sexting. SRE in 2017 is in urgent need of an ‘upgrade’ in order to support young people, who report receiving requests for explicit photos for their peers, and being harassed with unsolicited obscene material.

Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:

“On Valentine’s Day, we’re asking policy-makers to wake up to the reality of a school environment where nude images are traded like football stickers. Without high-quality sex and relationships education, firmly rooted in a ‘whole school’ approach where respect in the classroom is not undermined by harassment in playground, we are absolutely failing our young people.

All children in all schools should be provided with SRE to give them the chance to talk about what respect, equality and consent really mean, and to challenge views that condone or minimize abuse. Evidence indicates that schools are not currently preventing or tackling abuse effectively, and that many schools may be in breach of their equalities and safeguarding obligations. Giving schools too much discretion and giving opt-outs, including for private schools and some faith schools, is unsafe and legally unsound.”

Date Published
February 14, 2017
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