Today the government set out a statement on relationships and sex education (RSE). I welcome its focus on making most aspects of this curriculum compulsory, which is likely to benefit a huge number of young people. But there are still some details that concern me.
Our education system currently lets many children down, in possibly one of the most important areas for a successful life: creating respectful, safe and caring relationships.
MPs from across political parties have …had input into these reforms to RSE. I am proud to have been involved. I was instrumental in rallying MPs’ support for the Children and Social Work Bill, which made this type of education a legal requirement. However, until now it has not been implemented.
Today I raised some of my concerns with Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds. Although education on sexual exploitation is likely to be compulsory, the government state that parents will still be allowed to withdraw their children from sex education. This presents a problem: if children do not understand sex, how can they avoid being sexually exploited?
I am also concerned about the timeline. Two years to implement seems a long time, potentially preventing thousands of children from learning about decent relationships.
Throughout my working life I have campaigned for compulsory and comprehensive sex and relationships education. The need for this reform became increasingly clear in my previous career, where I worked with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. Children who do not understand healthy relationships may grow up to become violent adults or victims of violence and exploitation.