Sex and Relationships Education is something that not many school students find particularly enjoyable, partially because of the awkward nature of the subject. Despite this, it is an important part of the curriculum that many find useful in their late teens and upwards. Aside from the debate about it being boring or awkward, there is now a large number of people calling on the Education Secretary to make it a compulsory part of the curriculum, separate from what is already in the science syllabus.
As much as Mr Gove may have faced criticism over this issue, it’s not entirely his fault. A recent defeat in the House of Commons put the changes on hold, and the Labour amendment was defeated in the House of Lords yesterday; but the issue is still being considered. It is often thought that there is a whole awkwardness around the issue of Sex and Relationships Education. However, I would argue that it is the Sex Education that is awkward and many young people would like to learn about healthy relationships. The problem is, currently, that is not in the curriculum. Too much emphasis is put on one specific topic of a much wider subject.
As much as Sex and Relationships Education may be a taboo subject, it is still important and, from a personal point of view, I wish that the curriculum took a wider look at the subject, making sure that we all know how to have safe and healthy relationships. Especially with the new possibilities that cyberspace gives us in what is considered acceptable in a relationship.
Currently, a national campaigning project, Team V, with which I am involved, is running an awareness campaign called “Love is…”, focusing on healthy relationships. According to figures brought out by Team V, 1 in 5 young people believe it is okay to tell their partner what to do. This is not the way that relationships should be going. Therefore, I feel that the only option is to keep encouraging the government to get their act together and give young people something that is vital for later in life.
As much as schools and colleges have a duty to educate us, they also have a duty to keep us emotionally healthy, not just because we work better when we are but also so that we are kept safe. There is a grey area around this issue, something that needs to be sorted out. As much as this is not the point, it would also relieve some of the government’s other services from having to deal with issues involved with modern relationships. Whether that be the NHS trying to deal with accidental teenage pregnancies, or a youth service having to deal with many 16+ teenagers dropping in for advice that they perhaps can’t give.
There is also an issue with education about the law and relationships, in particular the age of consent. Currently this is 16; however, many young people have had sex under age and regretted it. Having to juggle a life where you have a child, a partner you may not stay with, and on top of all that education, is just too much. Additionally, this is actually illegal and could land teens in trouble for something that they simply didn’t know about. This is really important to get across to young people.
Sex and Relationships Education is something that many people are afraid to tackle (even ministers), mainly due to the stigma surrounding it. However, it is essential that young people know what is acceptable, unacceptable and the laws surrounding the issue. This is why, for many reasons, it is not just me calling for change on the subject. I, for once, agree with the public view of this issue and the media’s opinion on it.
I believe that, if done in the right way, introducing mandatory education on this subject would decrease unsafe relationships, underage pregnancy and finally, the stigma around the subject. I call on Mr Gove and the rest of the House of Commons to rethink this issue, before it’s too late.
Backbench Minister for Education