Catholic Education Service support for diluted provision of sex education revealed

August 2, 2013

The Accord Coalition has previously warned of the threat to sex education posed by an ideological lobby supporting abstinence and wanting schools to delay when information about how human reproduction occurs is presented. This week the Department for Education has released to Accord via a Freedom of Information Act request the submission to its recent National Curriculum Review consultation from the Catholic Education Service (CES), showing the CES’s support for the Government’s proposals to slim down requirements for sex education, which contrasts with its previous public enthusiasm for compulsory Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools.

In its short submission the CES focused only on SRE and noted how ‘We very strongly support the government’s proposals regarding the (statutory) content of the science curriculum’. The CES’s position differs from its backing, with caveats, in 2009 for making Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (which includes SRE) part of the compulsory school curriculum, when the idea was proposed by a Government review.

The Government excluded making PSHE part of the National Curriculum in 2011. The only SRE that pupils are entitled to receive is via the rudimentary sex education contained in National Curriculum Science and Accord, and many others, have been very worried by the Government’s proposals to dilute even these minor requirements. Accord made its own submissions to the Department’s National Curriculum consultation and in April, while the review was still ongoing, we added our name, along with over 100 other signatories, to an open letter (£) that called on the Government to ‘safeguard children by unambiguously including the essentials of sex education’ in National Curriculum Science.

The great many calls for an improved provision of sex education in schools have been largely ignored. Earlier this month the new National Curriculum Framework was published by the Department for Education, and the document:

  • fails to require that primary school children should learn the names of external genitalia – a safeguarding issue as it leaves children without the words to describe their bodies
  • leaves sexual health, adolescence and contraception absent from Key Stage 3 – a period when most children will have already started puberty
  • advises schools to teach about the menstrual cycle to 11-13 year olds ‘without details of hormones’, makings it impossible to explain the science behind contraception and fertility
  • removes completely any mention of secondary school’s legal obligation to teach about STIs and HIV (these were previously listed as part of the Science Curriculum)

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Accord supports a rights based approach to the provision of age appropriate Sex and Relationships Education for pupils, grounded on evidence and the needs of children and young people. Pupils should be entitled to know about how their body works, be given tools to be clear about personal boundaries, resist pressure, seek help when they need it and have misleading and inappropriate messages in the media, including via the internet, challenged.’

‘Rather than empowering teachers, the new National Curriculum will leave many less confident in dealing with the mechanisms by which fertilisation takes place and in talking about those parts of the human body involved in reproduction. Taken together, the provisions for sex education in the Science Curriculum are to set to become superficial and cursory, turning the clock back several decades.

‘Rather than ensuring schools provide high quality age appropriate Sex and Relationships Education, the Department for Education is undermining and playing politics with the health and wellbeing of children and young people, so as to please a small prudish constituency. Placing adult hang ups ahead of children in this way is deeply irresponsible.’



The National Children’s Bureau’s Sex Education Forum briefing ‘Does sex and relationships education work?’ (2010) can be found at

OFSTED’s paper ‘Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools’, was published in May 2013 and reported a close correlation between schools rated as outstanding in their provision of PSHE (which includes Sex and Relationships Education) and also those schools that were rated as outstanding in their overall effectiveness and the grades that pupils achieved. It found that PSHE education required improvement or was inadequate in 40% of schools and that at 20% staff had received little or no training to teach PSHE education. It also argued that a lack of high-quality, age-appropriate Sex and Relationships Education may leave children and young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation.

The NSPCC report ‘Child cruelty in the UK 2011: An NSPCC study into childhood abuse and neglect over the past 30 years found that in 2009, one in four 18-24 year olds (25.3%) had been physically attacked by an adult during childhood, sexually assaulted, or severely neglected at home, and that one in twenty children (4.8%) had been sexually assaulted – either by an adult or another child.

The report ‘Sex and Relationship Education: Views from teachers, parents and governors(2010), commissioned by a number of groups, found that 90% of parents and 93% of Governors thought schools should be involved in providing SRE, but that 80% of teachers do not feel sufficiently well trained and confident to talk about SRE. Only 9% of school leaders rated the teaching materials available to them as ‘very useful’

poll from Brook in November 2011 found that around one in four 12 to 18 year olds in the UK indicated that they didn’t receive any Sex and Relationships Education in school.


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