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Relationships and Sex Education Digest

May 2016

There has been continued coverage of ‘sexting’ in the Times over March and April, with the newspaper joining growing calls for statutory PSHE education, including sex and relationships education (SRE).

The coverage began with Maria Miller, the chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, calling for statutory status for the subject in response to growing concerns about the impact of sexting on young people. Following the report, former Girls Aloud singer and Barnardo’s Ambassador, Nicola Roberts, added her support to the call for PSHE education in all schools. Most recently, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the national police lead for child protection, stated that “compulsory PSHE education would ensure all our children to get the information to help themselves so they can stay safe.”

The Times sexting inquiry and Maria Miller quote can be read here (£):

The opinion piece by Nicola Roberts can be read here (£):

The piece quoting Chief Constable Simon Bailey can be read here (£):

The Labour Party has also reported that ‘sexting’ has skyrocketed among under-16s, so have called for statutory PSHE education.

The Labour party have stated that sexting among young people is “skyrocketing” but the government is “refusing to protect the smartphone generation”. Shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell, announced that Labour would make PSHE education statutory in all state-funded schools and has called for the government’s SRE guidance to be updated as it was published in 2000 “before the smartphone generation were even born”. The full BBC article can be read here:

The Women and Equalities Commons Select Committee have launched an inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.

The inquiry was announced alongside a report commissioned by the Committee which explores the views of 300 school and college students aged 16 to 25, on their experiences of sexual harassment and sexual violence while at school. Details on the inquiry and how to submit evidence can be found here:

Caitlin Moran has written an opinion piece for the Times on why sex education should be compulsory.

She argues that the Government decision to avoid making sex and relationships education compulsory in all schools, including academies, “presumes every home is a safe, friendly Boden home, with a well-meaning mother and father who sit their children down at the “right” time and give them a jolly chat on the birds and bees… Unfortunately, as the recent figures from the House of Commons chronicling a 60 per cent rise in reported child abuse cases show, this is not the case”. Although Moran argues that sex education should remain compulsory, the ‘relationships’ aspect of sex education is currently non-compulsory in all schools. The piece can be read in full here:

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport have published an expert report exploring issues related to age verification for online pornography, as part of a wider consultation that closed on 12 April.

The expert panel report urges Government to take note of evidence from the Commons Education Committee to suggest that PSHE education provision is currently inadequate, and states that if PSHE education were to be statutory, it should include “a core focus on relationships, sexual and gender identities, consent, and that pornography does not reflect ‘real world relationships”.

‘Is porn to blame for young women being coerced into having anal sex?’

“New studies by UK researchers investigating how young heterosexual people are having sex have revealed a climate where traditional gender roles of submissions and masculinity see 16 to 18-year-old girls coerced into having anal and oral sex.” “A [Government] consultation document on whether online pornography should be restricted has argued that young people are influenced by adult films to try anal sex, and cited research which claims it is not pleasurable for women.” “Debra Salmon, professor of community health at City University London warns that by singling out anal sex, the Government risks reverting to language that is “moralistic and judgemental”… Instead, compulsory Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) delivered by trained and supported teachers can help young people to consider how social influences – including porn – shape their sexual expectations.”

Justin Hancock of Bish Training has written a TES opinion piece on why spending too little time on SRE can be dangerous.

Hancock lists some common teaching misconceptions in SRE and concludes “In addition to supporting the specialist organisations that can deliver this work to a high quality, we need to create more time for SRE, and increase the number of people who feel confident delivering it. This sounds daunting, but teaching good SRE isn’t about being a “sexpert”, knowing all the answers or even knowing all the right words. It’s just about good teaching skills: encouraging students to think critically, to talk to each other and to be able to work stuff out for themselves.” Read the full piece on TES here:

As investigation has found revenge pornography victims to be as young as 11

“Children as young as 11 are among more than 1,000 alleged victims of revenge porn who reported offences in the first year of the new law coming into effect, it has been revealed. In April 2015, it became an offence to share private sexual photographs or films without the subject’s consent.” “The BBC analysed Freedom of Information requests from 31 forces in England and Wales between April and December. Our analysis shows… three victims were 11 years old with some 30% of offences involving young people under 19.”

Liberal Democrat MP, Julian Huppert, has called for compulsory SRE to combat rise in ‘revenge porn’.

Commenting on the fact that around 30% of reported incidents of revenge porn involved young people under the age of 19, Julian Huppert said: “This is a large and growing problem, and is causing huge amounts of harm to victims… Too many perpetrators managed to persuade themselves that they were doing nothing wrong because it wasn’t illegal, and that has now changed. However legislation can only ever by part of the solution – what we need is much better consent-based sex and relationships education, so that people are clear that this kind of humiliating behaviour is unacceptable.” Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition agreed stating “We also think that compulsory sex education, challenging the culture in schools which regards sexually active girls as ‘slags’ and ‘whores’ is essential. The concept of consent extends to spreading sexual images too.”

In response to the Lancet Commission report on adolescent health and wellbeing, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have called for compulsory PSHE education.

Responding to the Commission, Dr Carol Ewing, Vice President for Health Policy at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We must also work with other partner agencies to improve their health through preventative measures, by implementing PSHE in all schools. We know that many health and wellbeing issues which begin in adolescence are partly attributed to lifestyle factors such as smoking and poor diet. By providing compulsory PSHE lessons in all schools we can guide our adolescents to make healthier choices so that they have a healthier future.” Read the full RCPCH statement here: