A cross Party enquiry of MPs looking into the issue of teenage pregnancy has recommended that schools be required to provide pupils with Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), and that teachers of SRE receive compulsory training in the subject.
The inquiry was set up in response to the UK having the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, and a growth in unwanted pregnancies for women in some other age groups. The inquiry found that the provision of SRE was patchy and inconsistent, that those teaching SRE often lacked any training, and more often than not, SRE programmes in schools focused on the biological aspects of reproduction, as opposed to putting enough emphasis on relationships.
The enquiry were made aware of evidence showing that high quality and comprehensive SRE programmes had a protective function, and lead to young people choosing to have sex for the first time later in life, and increased their use of contraception. The inquiry heard about how thorough SRE helped to combat misleading messages about sex and relationships in the media, helped young people resist peer pressure, and taught them about how and when to access help. The inquiry also heard of the desire of parents and pupils that thorough SRE be provided.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘Some schools may have differing perspective towards some issues that should be addressed in SRE because of their religious ethos. However, matters of faith must not be allowed to deny children and young people a broad and balanced education about sex, relationships, and the risks they may face. Otherwise we risk jeopardising their future health and wellbeing.
‘The Accord Coalition therefore echoes the recommendations by the cross Party group that SRE training for teachers, and the provision SRE in the curriculum at state funded schools, be made compulsory.
‘Requiring primary and secondary schools to provide age appropriate SRE would be uncontroversial, as the proposal was supported during passage of the Children, Schools and Families Act 2010 by a wide variety of groups including the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales and the Church of England, as well all the main political parties. Meanwhile, the best schools already provide high quality SRE, so such a change would serve to help raise standards the most in those schools that currently let their children down in this area.’
The cross Party group’s report, The Morning After: A Cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy, can be found at http://www.2020health.org/2020health/Publication/Wellbeing-and-Public-Health/Unplanned-Pregnancy.html