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3rd February 2017

New report suggests sex and relationship education is ignored by Ofsted

Pressure is mounting on MPs to make Sex and Relationships Education and PSHE compulsory after the release of a damning report by the British Humanist Association

A recently published report by the British Humanist Association (BHA) has found that sex and relationships education (SRE) is mentioned in just 1 per cent of Ofsted reports, and PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) does not perform much better at 14 per cent.

This is despite evidence from the Sex Education Forum that compulsory SRE is beneficial in preventing sexual abuse, reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancies, improving well-being and reducing the gap in health inequality.

The report, Happy, Healthy, Safe?, is a scrutiny of the government’s current position, which relies on Ofsted to ensure the quality of SRE and PSHE. SRE and PSHE are, currently, not compulsory subjects and this often means that the education young people receive is of a mixed quality.

Andrew Copson, the Chief Executive of the BHA, said that “to lay the blame at the feet of Ofsted and its inspectors would be wrong,” proposing that the lack of importance ascribed to SRE and PSHE by Ofsted is in line with the government’s current attitude towards the subject.

However, this may soon change as pressure grows on MPs to make the subjects statutory, meaning they are compulsory for all students to learn. Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education, is said to be looking into the possibility of including compulsory SRE and PSHE in the new amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the Conservative MP Ms. Miller said: “I get a very strong feeling that she [Ms. Greening] is personally listening carefully — her presence in the debate last was very encouraging [sic].”

There is currently support across many political parties for the amendment, with five select committees including the Health Select Committee, Education Select Committee and the Women’s and Equality Select Committee calling for statutory SRE and PSHE in all primary and secondary schools. This is alongside the statistics that 8 in 10 Britons believe the subjects should be compulsory, as well as various charities, professional and academic bodies, and the United Nations.

There is, however, opposition to the amendment. In a report entitled Too Much, Too Young, makes claims that SRE would sexualise children when they are too young, take power away from schools and give it to the government, and waste millions in taxpayer money.

Furthermore, a debate proposed by Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas was filibustered by Tory MPs, including Philip Davies, who spent four and half hours debating in a preceding session. This meant that there was no time left to debate the bill introduced by Ms. Lucas, which dealt with LGBT-inclusive Sex Education.

There are a growing number of MPs like Lucas, who believe an inclusive sex and relationships education would decrease the levels of cyberbullying, online abuse and sexual harassment that many individuals face.

The BHA report released last week also finds that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying was addressed by just 14 per cent of Ofsted reports, and there is no mention of sexual harassment or sexual violence in more than 2000 Ofsted Reports.

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