The late Tony Benn often commented that, in order to be motivated into action and rebellion against the status quo, political activists needed not only to keep their anger at injustice, but to hope for a better world and to act together in order to try it about.

Ed Miliband:'We must have the courage of our convictions."
Ed Miliband:’We must have the courage of our convictions.”

Thus it would be extremely easy – and certainly justified – to be angered at the latest machinations of the leadership of all three major parties on the subject of mandatory SRE-inclusive PSHE in all schools. In the case of the Tories blinded and deafened by their ideological blinkers; in the case of the Liberal Democrats mind-boggling hypocrisy (even by their abysmal standards as evidenced by student tuition fees) as they desperately try to distance themselves from their coalition partners to save a few scalps at the election; and in the case of Labour an apparent case of short term memory loss. Let us consider each of these in turn and then look at the reasons for hope, because behind this is a rising tide of support or mandatory SRE-inclusive PSHE. There is rebellion in each of the three major parties.

Under the tutelage of Michael Gove, the ideological kneejerk reaction to such demands was always that it was up to the individual schools what to do. That remains the official position. However, demands have started to emerge for a change in policy.

Two weeks ago, Lord Norman Fowler – who ran the “Dont Die Of Ignorance” AIDs campaign as Thatcher’s Health Minister – called for mandatory SRE/PSHE on exactly the same grounds: that people should not be left to die in ignorance. Now he has been joined by back bench MP ,GP and Chair of the Health Select Committee Sarah Wollaston – much to her credit. On followed the ORIGINAL Tory “blonde bombshell” (long before Boris), Michael Fabricant. Finally, the Education Select Committee under the Chairmanship of Tory MP Graham Stuart has launched a pubic inquiry into its desirability. So signs are beginning to emerge of elements of Tory support. We welcome this. We want the widest possible support from all parties for this just as we did against Conversion Therapy.

In January 2014, the Liberal Peers in the Lords were whipped to vote against a Labour amendment to the Children Schools and Families Act that would have ensured mandatory SRE in all publicly funded schools. By voting with the Tories the measure was defeated. Similarly Liberal Democrat MPs in the Commons were whipped to vote against a new clause in the Children and Families Bill moved by Yvette Cooper – then Labour’s Shadow Equalities Minister – that would have ensured mandatory updated SRE as an integral part of PSHE in all schools funded by the taxpayer. Again, by combining with their coalition partners they ensured its defeat.

Labour should come out in favour of mandatory PSHE in all schools.
Labour should come out in favour of mandatory PSHE in all schools.

Now a few months later David Laws has announced that the Liberal Democrats would now support such a measure giving much the same reasons that Yvette Cooper gave last year – or indeed that Hull and East Yorkshire Labour LGBT+ Network gave in its submissions to Labour’s Policy Commission and the Education Select Committee Inquiry (save that we explicitly state it must be LGBT inclusive and apply to ALL schools however funded).

So yes we can deride them. They deserve it. But we are generous enough to welcome their change of heart. It should indicate that there would be support for such a measure in the Commons.

Now to Labour. The good news is that there is absolutely no doubt that Labour continues to support mandatory and “updated” SRE. By “updated” we agree that we are talking about violence against women, consent, relationships, and sexuality. Last June, whilst still Shadow Equalities Minister, Yvette Cooper told Pink News that we needed statutory PSHE which would make it – and SRE – a subject in its own right, thereby helping to address the health problems faced by LGBT students such as homophobic bullying and poor rates of sexual health in our community. Ed Miliband, again speaking to Pink News in February of this year, said:

“Making sex education in schools compulsory is the right thing to do,its the right thing for our young people, its the right thing for the country, and we should have the courage of our convictions.”

And so Labour should.  Tristram Hunt (Education) and Gloria de Piero (Equalities) have confirmed it. But the mystery is that the leadership seems to have forgotten about its previous commitment to it being an integral part of a mandatory PSHE Programme.

All expert opinion confirms that is the most effective way to deliver it. So let us remind the leadership in time for Conference. In 2010, in the dying days of the last Labour Government, Ed Balls drafted a provision in his Children Schools and Families Act that would have provided for mandatory SRE inclusive PSHE in all state funded schools – but this was defeated in the lords and the Act passed into law without that provision.

In March 2013, Yvette Cooper moved an amendment to the coalition Children and Families Bill which would broadly have provided the same and was again defeated. But by January of this year the reference to PSHE had been dropped and it has not even mentioned in the recent Policy Review. It would be bizarre indeed if the positions of Labour and the Liberal Democrats on this were reversed. That must not be allowed to happen and we call upon the upcoming Labour Party Conference to ensure that it is restored. It should also apply to all schools regardless of who funds them

Indeed there is sign of increased backbench support across all the Parties for this. This is instanced by the Private Members Bill tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas but co-sponsored by Labour backbenchers Glenda Jackson, Barbara Keeley and Yasmin Quareshi as well as liberal Democrat Tim Farron. This is the “Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education” [Statutory Requirement] Bill which “requires the secretary of state to provide that PSHE be a statutory requirement for all state funded schools, for PSHE to include SRE on ending violence against women and girls; to provide for initial training for initial and continuing teacher education; and guidance on best practice for delivering and inspecting PSHE and SRE Education and for connected purposes.”

The Bill is due its second reading in October. Its detailed text has not yet been published .We hope that when it is it makes specific reference to LBGT inclusiveness and of course it should be for all schools Nevertheless, we support the bill. We hope that members of all parties will support it. In particular we hope there is a massive show of support from backbench Labour MPs so that the Party Leadership’s memory might be jogged over what the Party’s policy WAS only a short time ago. Sarah Wollaston commented that there has been a surge of public opinion over this. We believe that the overwhelming majority of Labour Party MPs and members support it.It is essential that there is a strong turn out of Labour MPs so that a message can be sent to Ed Milibabd in time for the drafting of the manifesto

As Ed said: “have the courage of your convictions.” We believe that despite setbacks we are winning this battle We urge you to help it on its way by

1. If you are a Labour member pushing for conference to support it
2. Push your MP to support the Private Members Bill
3. Sign the Terrence Higgins Trust petition

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