Plans to bring in compulsory sex and relationship education has been hailed a long-awaited victory for children and young people by Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner.
Following a year of campaigning, Tony Lloyd has welcomed Education Secretary Justine Greening’s announcement that sex and relationship education will be made compulsory in all schools, with the curriculum to include broader teaching around consent, healthy relationships and respect.
All children from the age of four will be taught about safe and healthy relationships.Children will also be taught, at an appropriate age, about sex. But parents will still have the right to withdraw their children from these classes.
Until now, sex education has been compulsory only in council-run schools.Since academies and free schools are not under local authority control, they do not have to follow the national curriculum and have not been obliged to teach sex and relationships education (SRE).
Tony said: “This decision has been a long time coming, but I’m glad the government has finally listened to what campaigners, charities, politicians and – most importantly of all, young people themselves – have been crying out for.
“In order to equip our children with the knowledge they need to safely navigate the modern world, it’s vital that frank and age-appropriate information is made available to them. Children will always be curious and it is important for us to feed that curiosity with appropriate and accurate information.
“Social media and the internet are fantastic tools, but the growing online world means that our children are more easily exposed to complex issues and vast swathes of inappropriate and inaccurate content. And, while children may be streets ahead when it comes to technology, some lack the emotional maturity needed to make safe decisions.
“It’s no longer adequate to simply teach children about the biology of their bodies – this does nothing to help them form healthy relationships, understand issues of consent, or deal with the dangers of sexting and online grooming.”
Tony first wrote to the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on this issue back in March 2016, challenging the government’s rejection of MP’s calls to make sex education compulsory in schools. He has continued to apply this pressure throughout the last year, warning that the government’s archaic attitudes to sex education were putting children at risk.
Last year, Tony made funding available for the rollout of ‘Real Love Rocks’ to schools across Greater Manchester – a suite of learning resources put together by Barnardo’s to teach children about consent, healthy relationships and online safety.