Relationships and Sex Education

SRE has recently become a hot topic in education politics and fortunately has not degenerated into a polarised debate to the extent that it has in the USA.  New challenges as a result of major changes in information technologies and services which put young people at risk of adverse outcomes have upped the ante.  These include easy access to video pornography, use of mobile phones for intimate texting, selfies and sexting, and the use of social websites and picture sharing sites.

There is widespread agreement in the UK that SRE is an appropriate and important activity in schools.  Many reports have been published recently and campaigns launched on the topic including the following:

  • A review of current SRE and government policy;                                Link to review
  • A campaign to make SRE mandatory by the Sex Education Forum    Link to campaign
  • A survey of SRE and campaign by the pressure group Mumsnet         Link to results
  • A survey supported by Teachers, governors and PTAs by Durex         Link to news release & summary
  • A campaign by the Daily Telegraph largely concentrating on the IT issues    Link to commentary


Our summary

  • There is a huge majority of parents who would like schools to take this on
    • It is not an easy task for parents at home
    • Most recognise their key roles but find it a difficult area
    • There is a body of parents unwilling to trust schools, fearing "too much - too soon"
    • There are ethnic and religious groups who fear the normalisation of teenage sex
  • National policy has been positive but lukewarm
    • The last Labour government wanted to make SRE statutory in schools but failed at the last hurdle
    • The coalition have steadfastly refused to do this but are increasingly concerned by the new problems
    • Neither have taken it seriously as a public health issue or followed the evidence of what works
  • Schools have been left holding this hot potato complicated by
    • Little recognition of good quality SRE
    • A notoriously difficult and often unpopular area to teach about
    • Lack of trained teachers and timetable slots in a busy curriculum