Growing calls for better Sex Education in schools

September 5, 2013

A letter signed by sixty nine organisations and educationalists which calls on the Prime Minister to ensure that new guidance on Sex and Relationships Education in schools is produced has been published in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. The government’s current sex education guidance was published in 2000 and the joint letter, which was organised by the Sex Education Forum, highlights some of the legal and cultural changes that have happened since that time which serve to render the guidance out of date. These include the repeal of Section 28 and the widespread use of the internet by children.

Publication of the letter comes only a day after both the Prime Minister’s Adviser on the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood, Clare Perry MP, and The Daily Telegraph came out in support of a campaign to ‘bring sex education into the 21st century’.

Signing the letter on behalf of the Accord Coalition, its Chair, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Good SRE aims to do many things, including reduce unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and give children tools to be clear about personal boundaries, resist pressure, seek help when they need it and to challenge misleading and inappropriate messages in the media. It can also provide a space for schools to ground and advance their anti-bullying measures, including anti-homophobic bullying.

‘The government’s dated guidance and failure to make SRE compulsory in schools act as a barrier to ensuring that all pupils have an entitlement to receive high quality SRE. Accord therefore hopes the Government will respond to the mounting pressure and widespread support for the provision of SRE to be enhanced, lest the future health and wellbeing of our children and young people will be placed at risk.’

Yesterday’s letter is reproduced below:

Dear Sirs

As a new term begins, we note that many schools are no better equipped to teach sex and relationships education (SRE) to a good standard than in previous years. Ofsted inspections have found that SRE needs improving in a third of schools. Schools have out-of-date guidance, which was published 13 years ago by the Department for Education and Employment. This pre-dates the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act and the 2010 Equalities legislation which requires schools to take account of gender equality when teaching young people about non-violent, respectful relationships. The Government SRE guidance is also behind the times on technology and safeguarding, with no reference to addressing on-line safety, ‘sexting’ or pornography in SRE. Parents want SRE to be taught in schools but need to know what to expect their children will be taught at different ages. Teachers would welcome this too when planning the curriculum; they are often anxious about which topics they can include.

The Government says that its ambition is for ‘all children and young people to receive good-quality SRE’ but has not said what that includes or how it will be achieved. If the Government genuinely believes SRE, including the teaching of ‘sexual consent’ is important then it is worthy of up-to-date guidance that all schools are required to put into practice.

We call on the Government to work with professionals in the sector to produce up-dated SRE guidance. This, we believe, would send out a clear message to schools that SRE is an absolute requirement, and that high standards must be met.



Opinium carried out a survey last month, asking UK adults which from a list of subjects taught during their schooling was least beneficial. Sex education was cited fewer times than any other subject.

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

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.

Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee on June 12th, 2012, Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, gave a shocking testimony on the prevalence of sexual exploitation of children in England, which she claimed took place in every ‘town, village and hamlet’ in England.

An Ofsted report on PSHE published in 2010 found that some aspects of SRE were less well taught than others, particularly relationships. Amongst the report’s key findings, it was concerned over a lack of discrete curriculum time in a quarter of schools visited, particularly at secondary schools, which meant that programmes of study were not covered in full. The areas that suffered most included Sex and Relationships Education and mental health issues.

The report Sex and Relationship Education: Views from teachers, parents and governors 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’. More than one in four school leaders and a fifth of governors believe that current SRE in schools is failing children by preparing them for the future ‘not well’ or ‘not at all well’.

Support for making SRE statutory has extended to the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales and the Church of England. Both groups supported SRE becoming part of the National Curriculum at primary and secondary levels when proposed by the un-amended Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009-2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Accord depends on your support

Please give.

Sign up

find us on Facebook

News history