There is lots to enjoy reading about this article from Jane Martinson -www.guardian.com/education/2014/jun13/teachers-sex-education-mandatory-subject-compulsory-schools-porn-sexting
The article comes on the back of an important campaign from the Sex Education Forum. #SREItsmyright (find out more here www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/it's-my-right) . As you would expect I completely agree with Jane's position that SRE should be compulsory and with the Head, Tom Sherrington quoted who says 'we need to decide what schools should be teaching beyond the main curriculum, what the priorities are for the next generation; I, for one, think sex education should be right at the top'.
I agree SRE has the lowest of priorities when it comes to scrutiny, that on line porn has added to the urgency of us talking more openly about sex and relationships with young people at home, school and in the community. I also know that many children, young people, parents, carers and schools work together really well to provide excellent SRE.
I would caution against defining SRE as in crisis, however, because if it is in crisis now, then we must surely say it has always been. And when things are in crisis people often panic and can seek to resolve the wrong thing. If choosing to describe SRE as a in crisis lets be very clear the crisis is in the failure to make PSHE statutory and improve the system. It is not a crisis of knowledge about what works or in the content (eg the myth of porn and sex lessons for 4 year olds) .
Yes there is great urgency to improve SRE. Yes there are real challenges as technology evolves at a pace. Yes we have to do more to improve understanding of healthy relationships and positive behaviours and yes, I, like so many others may be frustrated with the repeated failures to put PSHE on a statutory footing. We do not have substantive evidence that on the ground delivery is worse than it ever has been. On the contrary we know that in some schools it is better than ever. But the reality is we simply do not the evidence of the picture nationally. What we do know is that many practitioners are working hard to make sure children and young people get their entitlement to PSHE and that we have stronger evidence of effectiveness than we have ever had.
Children and young people have right to PSHE as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is an urgent need to address violence, exploitation and abuse, as well as develop confident children and young people who can enjoy their sexuality and take responsiblity for their relationships. This is why there is such a broad based consensus and high levels of support for PSHE from children, young people, parents, carers and professionals. And that is why we have to get SRE firmly on the curriculum where it belongs as part of a robust Personal, Social and Health Education and Citizenship curriculum (where, incidentally, (British) values would also be discussed).
To do so, we must not collude with the idea that SRE is controversial. It just isn't. It is under resourced, low priority in many schools and objected to by the very vocal, very tiny minority but for most the controversy is that children and young people are repeatedly failed by successive governments failure to make PSHE statutory. At a recent event hosted by the Lord Speaker, Baroness D' Sousa, she expressed her surprise that SRE is so patchy. That is my experience of talking to many parents and grandparents who, like children and young people are often incredulous that there is no statutory requirement to deliver very much (only the biological) and that it can be so patchy.
Finally teacher training: if you are trained and confident in SRE it is only as complex as teaching and learning about any issue. That is why teachers must be trained and supported to deliver SRE just as they are Math and English. That is why SRE must be compulsory and that is why I urge you to visit www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/it's-my-right and take action now.
Despite the best efforts of many, compulsory SRE is part of the mid to long game. In the meantime this SRE Advice from Brook, PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum will help you develop and implement 21st Century SRE www.brook.org.uk/supplementaryadvice
As an aside not once has a boy (or girl) fainted or keeled over during a lesson I have ever run about menstruation, or indeed any other topic within SRE.