The Committee concluded that “all state schools should have mandatory SRE/PSHE.”

The House of Commons Select Committee Report was published on 17th February.

Over 400 individuals and groups – including Hull and East Riding LGBT Forum and Hull and East Riding Labour LGBT+ Network – made submissions to the committee, chaired by Tory MP for Beverley and Holderness Graham Stuart.

The government has to take notice of the report but is not bound to act upon it. Labour and the Lib Dems have, in general terms, welcomed it. It is, therefore, extremely important that pressure is kept up on ALL parties to accept, and indeed extend, it.
Launching the report Mr Stuart said,

“There is overwhelming demand for statutory sex and relationships education from teachers parents and young people themselves—-young people have a right to information that will keep them healthy and safe. SRE forms an important part of any school’s efforts to safeguard young people from abuse and is pariculaly needed to protect the most vulnerable children.”

Or, as we put it in our petition from Hull 2013 Pride and submission to the Inquiry: ‘no child should be left in fear and ignorance.’

The Committee’s Recommendations 

1. The Department for Education should develop a work plan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and SRE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools [NB This applies to tax payer funded schools only so excludes private schools however it would include Faith Schools and Academies].
2.All parents should be required to run a regular consultation with parents on the schools SRE provision
3. The parental right to withdraw their child from elements of SRE should be retained
4. The Government should formally endorse and issue the SRe guidance produced by Brook produced by Brook the Sex Education Forum and the PSHE Association .
{This is the updated advice including among other things such as internet safety LGBT inclusive guidance]. It should also promote this more actively to schools and governors,
5. The funding of continuous professional development for PSHE teachers and nurses should be reinstated [In other words PSHE must be taught by PSHE specialists and those specialists need continue professional development]
6. Ofsted should resume its regular subject surveys of PSHE provision [These were discontinued after Offsted were highly critical of the extent and nature of coverage]
7. SRE should be renamed Relationships and Sex Education [RSE} to emphasise the relationships element of the subject.

Our Verdict 

There is much to welcome in this report. It represents a radical departure from the past and has been welcomed – to a greater or lesser extent – by well over 100 associations active in this field. This includes ourselves, since much of it reflects the evidence that we submitted. We welcome it being mandatory, welcome the subject [and teachers] being given due recognition and professional support and welcome the updating of advice on SRE teaching [especially of course the LGBT friendly element included within that]. Much of what Mr Stuart said we could have said ourselves.
However ,we do have some reservations:

1. This would only apply to state funded schools. Youngsters in private schools – well over half a million of them -could be left in ignorance and danger. What possible justification is there for this?
This is similarly a blind spot in the broadly similar proposals put forward by Labour on 8th. February
2. The report largely deals with LGBT issues only by implication. These should be made blatant rather then latent and be spelt out
3. Some will be concerned that parents can still opt out children
One has to ask the question of whose interests should come first—-those of the parents or the children?
4. And of course this would only apply to England because of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Labour’s Proposals

These – put forward by Tristram Hunt earlier in the month – are remarkably similar to the Select Committee’s Proposals, except for the continued blindness of Mr Hunt in making SRE a part of mandatory PSHE. This is entirely beyond my comprehension and goes in the face of just about every educational organisation in the country.
On the other hand, Mr Hunt was much more forthright on the need to include LGBT issues and oppose homophobic bullying.

He said ‘Repealing section 28 was not enough We need new training for teachers – and others in the school workforce. Strategies for education dealing with both prevention and resolution. We need to act urgently to prevent to prevent the blight of homophobic bullying that is damaging the lives and life chances of thousands of pupils.
Both the Select Committees and the Labour Party’s recommendations leave much to be desired and we will have to fight hard to improve them. However they represent a huge step forward over the present situation let alone that which we had at the time of Section 28. To that extent we welcome them and will fight to see them implemented.

Colin Livett, 23rd. February 2013.

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