Relationship -- but not sex -- education to be compulsory

Critics warn that government plans to make sex education compulsory in England for the first time fall short of properly teaching children about LGBT relationships, sexual violence and pornography.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Relationship -- but not sex -- education to be compulsory - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

A leading women's organization has criticized draft government guidelines for compulsory sex education in England the day before a public consultation into sex education proposals comes to an end.

The criticism signifies how much work is to be done to make sex education high-quality and worthwhile in schools across the nation.

Conservative attitudes to sex and sex education have prevailed in the UK, as well as in other European nations.

It has been said that sex education is "practically non-existent" in Poland, "deficient" in Bulgaria and "disastrous" in Spain.

Examples of how to better educate in schools about sex and relationships can be seen in nations where it is not only compulsory for all pupils but also well-rounded and inclusive.

According to a European Parliament report on sex education policies throughout the European Union, sex education is mandatory in most Member States, except in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom.

In Holland all secondary and primary schools children are taught sex education. They are also given information about sexual diversity.

Finland's standards are considered to be representative of an advanced model of comprehensive sex education in Europe. After the country re-introduced compulsory sex education in 2006, the number of teenage abortions declined.

Meanwhile, sex education in Wales, England's neighbour, had an LGBT-friendly overhaul in May.

Details from the story:

  • Sex education guidance has not been updated in England in the past 18 years.
  • Following record levels of reports of sexual harassment, exposure to illicit images and issues of consent in English schools, a group of cross-party MPs pushed in 2017 for the law to be updated, promising to make relationships and sex education compulsory in every school in England for the first time.
  • But plans to improve sex education have fallen short, say critics.
  • The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAWC), an umbrella group of more than 80 organisations, warned in a letter to the education secretary Damien Hinds that the "squeamish" proposals give a "green light to schools whose leaders choose to teach only very traditional notions of sexuality, relationships and gender norms."
  • The suggested guidelines included only one mention of pornography and minimal references to menstruation, the EVAWC said.
  • The draft guidelines appear to advise that relationship education is compulsory in primary schools, but not sex education.
  • Critics have also warned that the proposals fall short of including well-rounded teachings on LGBT relationships and sexual violence.
  • A Department for Education consultation into sex and relationships education ended on November 7th.
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