Relationships and Sex Education Digest
Anti-Bullying Week debated in House of Commons
On 23 November the House of Commons held a debate about Anti-Bullying Week. Opening the debate, Gavin Newlands MP reminded the House that there are many different forms of bullying and that the effects of childhood bullying on adult mental health remains significant. He said that "Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is also widespread in UK schools" and that “young women are also far more likely to experience bullying, especially sexist bullying, than other students”. He concluded that we should “take a whole-school approach that tackles the gender inequalities in schools”.
Minister for school standards Nick Gibb responded that the Government is trying to do all it can to support schools and colleges in tackling bullying, and that it will be publishing interim advice this term specifically on peer-to-peer abuse. He added that the Department for Education has begun a process of engagement with stakeholders to develop the regulations and guidance for relationships education and RSE, and to ensure that subject content will be age-appropriate and inclusive for all stages.
- Lord Stoddart Of Swindon asked what steps the Government is taking to ensure that LGBT issues are taught well in English schools and at what age such lessons will be aimed. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered that all schools should make provisions for high quality, age appropriate PSHE, which includes RSE.
- Lord Greaves asked what steps are taken to educate young people on the potential dangers of social media and the potentially socially beneficial use of social media. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered that the new computing curriculum, which was introduced in September 2014, sets out the expectation that children in England are taught how to use technology safely, securely and responsibly. Additionally, the new guidance for Relationships Education for primary schools, and Relationships and Sex Education for all secondary schools, will consider safe online relationships.
- Andrew Gwynne asked what cross-departmental initiatives are undertaken to tackle cyberbullying and to protect young people from abuse online. Matt Hancock answered that the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper sets out the Government’s expectation for social media and technology companies to protect young internet users from online harms. The Strategy also outlines the crucial role education plays in improving online safety. Both the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Education are keen to ensure that Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE (if made compulsory) address the challenges experienced by young people online.
Department for Education launches call for evidence on PSHE and RSE
On December 19th the Department for Education (DfE) launched an 8 week call for evidence on PSHE and Relationships & Sex Education (RSE). This followed Government commitments in this year’s Children and Social Work Act to make RSE statutory in all secondary schools from 2019, make ‘relationships education’ statutory in all primaries, and to consider statutory status for PSHE education in its entirety.
The DfE is very keen to get young people’s input. The PSHE Association has created free resources for teachers to run a feedback-gathering session with students including instructions on how to submit this feedback by the 12 February deadline. Materials are available for both KS2 and for KS3&4.
DfE launches advice on dealing with sexual violence and harassment between children
On December 15th the Department for Education published advice on how to identify sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges, and on how to minimise risks and deal with incidents that occur. The guidance document elaborates on the role of education in prevention and emphasises the role that PSHE education and RSE plays in school efforts to embed this through the curriculum – including a featured case study school that planned their work using the PSHE Association programme of study for PSHE.
Brook and CEOP launch Digital Romance report
On December 12, Brook and CEOP published a joint report on how digital technology shapes the ways in which young people relate to each other in romance, sex and relationships. The research looks at both the positives and negatives of using technology. Many of the 2,000 surveyed young people described benefits to using technology – for instance meeting someone online they later start seeing – but responses also showed that technology adds new pressures and risks to young people’s relationships, particularly for girls. Around 36% of girls have come under the pressure to send nude photos of themselves for example, whilst 14% of girls have experienced verbal abuse or threats online from partners during a relationship.
- Heidi Allen asked what progress the Department is making on updating relationships and sex guidance. Nick Gibb answered that the Department wants to help all schools deliver high quality Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE so that all young people are equipped with the skills to have healthy and respectful relationships. He added that it is “currently conducting a thorough and wide-ranging engagement with stakeholders, which will help us reach an evidence-based decision on PSHE, as well as determine the content of the regulations and statutory guidance”.
- Lisa Cameron asked what steps the Department is taking to include mental wellbeing in the national curriculum. Nick Gibb answered that there are no plans to make changes to the national curriculum, but the Department is considering how it can build on the strong existing base of what schools already do to promote good mental health and wellbeing. In particular, it is working on developing regulations and guidance for mandatory Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools. The role of physical and mental well-being in forming and maintaining healthy relationship will be a part of this.
- Layla Moran asked what discussions the Secretary of State for Education has had with students and young people on improving relationships and sex education in schools. Nick Gibb answered that it’s the part of the Government’s duty to introduce mandatory Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools. The Department has begun a wide-ranging, thorough engagement with stakeholders to make decisions on the content of the regulations and the statutory guidance for both subject, and to consider the status of PSHE education further. It also plans to consult young people as part of this engagement process.
- Sir Henry Bellingham asked what progress is being made on the implementation of the curriculum elements required by provisions of the Children and Social Work Act 2017. Nick Gibb answered that the Children and Social Work Act requires the Government to make provisions for statutory Relationships Education in primary schools and Sex and Relationships in secondary schools. It also gives the power to make PSHE education mandatory in all schools. The Department has begun an engagement process with stakeholders to help draft guidance and the content of the regulations, as well as further consideration of the status of PSHE.
- Vicky Foxcroft asked what steps the Department for Education is taking to ensure all schools teach awareness of violence against women and girls. Nick Gibb answered that following the Government response to the Women and Equalities select committee report into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, the Department is considering how to ensure that pupils learn about healthy and respectful relationships as part of Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in secondary schools. The engagement process with stakeholders to help reach evidence-based decisions on the content of regulations and guidance for both subjects as well as further considerations on the status of PSHE has commenced.
Damian Hinds takes up his new role as Education Secretary
Damian Hinds has previously been a member of the Education Select Committee and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility.
Women and Equalities Select Committee opens inquiry
On January 15 the Women and Equalities Select Committee opened an inquiry on sexual harassment of women and girls in public places. This follows the Committee’s report Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, which called for statutory Relationships and Sex Education.
- Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked how the Government will ensure that relationships and sex education will be LGBT inclusive, and which stakeholders are consulted in respect of the placing of (1) PSHE and (2) RSE on statutory footing, and when it is expected that the draft regulations for both will be laid before the Parliament. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered that the Government has a begun an engagement process with a wide range of stakeholders, including those representing the interests of LGBT groups. It has also launched a call for evidence to gather the views of teachers, parents and young people. Draft regulations and guidance will be published in 2018.
- Justine Greening asked Amber Rudd, minister for Women and Equalities, if she could confirm that the Government will push ahead with updating relationships and sex education guidance. Amber Rudd answered that this is the case.
- Darren Jones asked what steps the Department is taking to ensure that the relationship and sex education curriculum is designed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment among children and young people in all key stages. Nick Gibb answered that the Department has launched a call for evidence for both adults and children to seek views on curriculum content for Relationships and Sex Education. Following this, it will create draft regulations that shall be laid in Parliament.
- Julian Knight asked what steps the Secretary of State will take to improve and strengthen the teaching of consent during Sex and Relationships Education in schools. Nick Gibb answered that the Department has launched a call for evidence for both adults and children to seek views on curriculum content for Relationships and Sex Education. Following this, it will create draft regulations that shall be laid in Parliament.