The House of Commons has passed Government amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill to require all secondary school pupils in England to be taught sex education. The amendments will also require primary school age pupils to receive ‘relationships education’.
The move follows – as Accord reported last month – growing cross-party calls at Westminster for all schools to have to teach sex education. Currently the only mandatory sex education in England and Wales are cursory requirements for sex education in the Science part of the National Curricula, which Academy schools can ignore.
The amendments provide for little detail and empower the Secretary of State for Education to produce statutory guidance on teaching of the subject. A ministerial statement announcing the amendments stated that ‘faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith.’
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘The provision of compulsory sex education in schools is an import safeguarding issue and long overdue. The support the Government is showing for the subject is to be welcomed.’
‘Concern remains however around how issues like reproduction, contraception, sexual diversity and trans-gendered people are addressed in schools, especially in the faith sector. Schools should be able to reflect upon a reasonable range of religious and cultural perspectives, but it is essential that sex education provided is accurate, balanced and promotes an acceptance of diversity.’
Making sex education compulsory has long been frustrated by a lobby lacking in evidence which has sought to delay when information surrounding how human reproduction occurs is presented in schools. Religious arguments have sometimes been misapplied in support of this approach. Homophobia has previously been found to be worse within the faith school sector.