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Guest blog: We need to put Sex and Relationship Education on the National Curriculum - for all

(134 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 08-Jun-13 15:22:34

Hello all

An amendment to the Children and Families Bill currently before parliament has been tabled, which would:

1. Add PSHE to National Curriculum;
2. Make age appropriate SRE a statutory component of this curriculum at all 4 Key Stages;
3. Specify that same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent be part of the curriculum on PSHE

The amendment is backed by the One Billion Rising campaign and other groups including End Violence Against Women, the EQUALS coalition and Women's Aid, and will be debated this coming Tuesday 11th June. Here Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Children's Minister who tabled the motion (along with Sharon Hodgson MP and Stella Creasy MP), explains why the proposals are vital to ensure both young men and women develop positive and equal relationships with each other, and calls on Mumsnetters to contact their MP asking for her/his support.

Tell us what you think here on the thread, and if you blog on this issue don't forget to leave your URL. If you like this post, do spread the word via the share buttons at the top of the page!


"We need to do more to protect children. Recent research by the Children's Commissioner found a shocking number of young people don't know what a good relationship looks like. This should be a wake up call that we are simply not doing enough to keep children safe.

Making clear, high-quality and age-appropriate sex and relationship education part of the National Curriculum is a vital and important step in equipping children with the ability to protect themselves from abuse now and in the future. This is not just about biology - but about helping young people to develop healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships. A recent report by the NSPCC found that a third of girls in relationships aged 13-17 have experienced physical or sexual violence in relationships, while one in 16 of this group reported experiencing rape. Not only are a third of young women experiencing violence and abuse in their relationships but a third of young boys are the perpetrators of this abuse. This is clearly a significant problem.

We need to break the cycle and education is key to preventing it from happening in the first place. With children and young people increasingly exposed to sexual content online and through social media, the need for information has never been greater. According to the Children?s Commissioner, boys as young as 11 are frequently exposed to pornographic images, and the NSPCC reports calls to Childline by teenage boys who are worried about what it is doing to them. There is strong evidence of a link between explicit images and a rise in sexual aggression and harassment of the opposite sex.

Not only does good quality sex and relationships education help protect children from becoming victims of abuse, it will help children develop healthy attitudes which will prevent them from becoming perpetrators of abuse themselves. It is vital that children can make healthy and informed decisions about their lives, and develop the confidence, skills and resilience to make good choices. This is too important to leave to chance.

That is why on Tuesday we will ask the Government to support an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to deliver age-appropriate sex and relationships education in all schools and give teachers the tools they need to deliver it.

Sexual abuse is not inevitable, and we have a duty to do all we can to prevent it. Children and young people have a right to expect that from their Government. Show your support for making Sex and Relationship Education part of the National Curriculum by contacting your MP to ask them to join me in voting for New Clause 20."

MmeLindor Sat 08-Jun-13 22:25:24

Notcitrus
That is a good comparison. I am actually not happy with the RE teaching in school, because I am going through a bit of an atheist phase (or should that be, I have questions with regard to my faith). I would not stop them teaching RE in school, because it is MY opinion, not my kids. They should be taught to look at these issues with an open mind and make their decisions.

Flisspaps Sat 08-Jun-13 22:26:21

What I'm saying there is, it's not just that Betty might speak to Jane but she might know to report it to someone who can help.

It's not just peer support, but enabling our young people to access services they may otherwise not be aware of, or bringing them to the attention of service providers.

OddSockMonster Sat 08-Jun-13 22:35:12

Agree with you there Flisspaps.

Also, given they already do a bit on bullying (I think, DC1 is only 6), it's not too much of a step to bullying within a relationship (simplistic version). But nevertheless a step that needs pointing out.

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 22:37:22

hopefully they will make healthy, sensible and informed choices based on what we teach them.
we are their parents and we should decide what information should be given to them and when, how detailed etc.

I don't think any stranger can explain to my children about conception for example any better than I can.
we have lovely conversations and they are welcome to ask any questions they want.
they are not being deprived of any information and have been always given straight and truthful answers based on their aged and their capacity to understand the answers.
I would be a fool to let these precious, intimate moments handed over to a teacher or a doctor!

fear not, our children are very well informed - having had 6 children there's not a snowballs chance in hell that we could avoid talking about "where babies come from" (to stay with my example).
not that we would ever want to!

I'm not saying that the proposed changes in topics are a bad idea. I oppose to them being compulsory.

if it becomes compulsory, fine.
we'll see what options there are, and yes there will be certain lessons our children won't be allowed to take part based on our religious beliefs.
which by the way they already do in certain other subjects.

I don't think I can explain how I think and feel any better than this.

which is why I said earlier that those who agree with me will understand what I'm on about, and those who don't understand what I mean would probably disagree with me anyway.

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 22:40:15

notcitrus - I don't home educate them.

Flisspaps Sat 08-Jun-13 22:44:05

Non-compulsory lessons make it a pointless exercise though - excluding children from certain lessons or topics mean they CANNOT be fully informed. Not being fully informed means you cannot make informed choices. You may have decided, as a parent, to omit something that in the future, your child could really have done with knowing about.

Why would anyone choose for their child to not have all the information they could possibly need?

What does your child lose from being fully aware of the things you are currently choosing to exclude him/her from?

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 22:47:56

what bothers me the most about these conversations - not the first or the last - that people will talk about being open-minded and tolerant yet are incapable of tolerating my POV.

it happens every time.

I tolerate other people's views and accept that they have different ideas from mine.
I just don't want to agree with these ideas, or being forced to accept them.

MmeLindor Sat 08-Jun-13 22:52:23

amazingmum
Do you see though that although you are saying that you would teach them all they need to know - and possibly much of the same things that they would learn in school - some parents wouldn't.

If all parents were able and willing to have these discussions with their kids, and felt comfortable talking about sex and contraception, then there would be no need to make it compulsory.

The issue is that some parents will not do this, or won't be bothered. These kids, the vulnerable ones, are most in need of a guiding hand.

What about kids who are already in an abusive household, but don't recognise it as one? I heard Jahmene Douglas speak recently and he said that he didn't know that the abuse he witnessed was wrong. He thought all families were like that.

OddSock
You might be interested in the blog post I wrote for preteens/kids about controlling behaviour being bullying by another name

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 22:53:18

flisspass the question is - what it is that they gain from not hearing certain things that they are either not ready to hear or doesn't benefit them or are potentially damaging to them.

answer - they gain protection of a different kind

Flisspaps Sat 08-Jun-13 22:55:19

The other thing to consider is, how do you know what you're teaching your kids (or any of us are teaching our kids) is correct? Many people are certain they know about how our bodies work, about consent, about signs of abuse or violence, and quite often they're wrong. How many old wives tales are there about things like periods and sex? How many rape myths continue because parents pass in their own misguided views? How many kids grow up in families where a thump or slap is the norm?

If the content of what needs to be discussed is laid out, in the NC, made compulsory and supported with factual documents and lessons, so that parents cant omit this stuff, deliberately, accidentally, for religious reasons, personal reasons, because you get embarrassed or even simply can't be bothered to talk, then that can only be a good thing.

Flisspaps Sat 08-Jun-13 22:57:45

What information do you feel won't benefit them or will be damaging to them though?

Not knowing stuff is what causes the problems.

MmeLindor Sat 08-Jun-13 23:00:05

Amazingmum
But there are always going to be things that they learn in school that we don't agree with.

This week my daughter was taught how to resuscitate a person after a heart attack. I find 11yo far too young to be taught this - kids of that age don't have the strength to do this, and they also should not be given that kind of responsibility. Appropriate would be to show them how to get help, and very basic first aid. Not heart massage.

I also don't like the 'healthy eating' message, and the whole mad 'health and safety' nonsense in UK. I put up with it, cause I can talk to my kids afterwards and ease their fears. And because the school is otherwise excellent.

kim147 Sat 08-Jun-13 23:05:00

I think it's really important to discuss healthy relationships. Domestic violence and rape also need to be discussed - just imagine how many potential victims there are in the class. The sad fact is - there are parents out there who will never discuss such things with their children and who think rape and domestic violence are perfectly normal.

It is also important to discuss sex - the misconceptions and the role of effective contraception. As for sexuality, well there are people out there who are homosexual and who need to know it's ok.

School is a safe place to do this. Sex ed has been round for ages and I have no problem with healthy relationships being added to it. I would have a problem if things like marriage were promoted as being "the norm" as this would have an effect on children who are in other types of families.

Flisspaps Sat 08-Jun-13 23:10:52

It's also important for kids who are not - and will never be - homosexual to know that being homosexual is ok. It's not something to fear or feel threatened by. It's not something to hide away.

Years of lessons about heterosexual sex and relationships haven't magically made all the gay people straight, so there's no reason to think that teaching straight kids about gay sex and/or marriage is going to 'make' them go out and do it.

There are also questions kids might ask a teacher or professional in the context of a lesson on a certain subject that they'll never ask a parent because of embarrassment or fear.

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 23:18:09

yes lindor

which is why I said that I don't oppose to the ideas and the changes.
yes, I'm sure that a lot of children (and adults for that matter) would greatly benefit from more information.

but I don't see how it being compulsory would benefit absolutely everyone, every time..

my eldest is 12 and would be bored to tears if he had to sit through someone explaining about both female and male reproductive organs and their functions (yet again) for example.
he knows all about that since he was about 7.
so let him be allowed to spend that hour doing something else, maybe extra maths or history or whatever.

BTW - IMO if these subjects/changes were introduced as a default system with the option of not taking part if so requested by the parents, then children from abusive households would probably be able to go to these lessons as I can only guess that it is likely that abusive parents might not be particularly concerned about what their children are taught at school.
that is a guess and an assumption - and obviously not something that serious changes can be based on. I see that.
still that is what I think.

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 23:22:53

flispass I don't think I can answer that very well or at all, until I know what it is that they might be taught.

sorry, not a cop out, I can't answer this.

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 23:25:08

my last comment was an answer to this question:

"What information do you feel won't benefit them or will be damaging to them though?"

amazingmumof6 Sat 08-Jun-13 23:33:56

"The other thing to consider is, how do you know what you're teaching your kids (or any of us are teaching our kids) is correct?"

that I can not answer without turning this into a religious conversation.

Flisspaps Sat 08-Jun-13 23:43:41

It's not necessarily about religion - some people really think that you can't wash your hair during a period, or that you can't get pregnant if you have sex standing up. Some people think that you can't rape your wife, but that you have conjugal rights and can have see with her whenever you like. Some people genuinely believe that financial or emotional abuse aren't 'abuse' as there is no physical violence.

Whatalotofpiffle Sat 08-Jun-13 23:56:21

I think this is a great idea. It is reality and children need to know these things to know what is not ok. I would like to see the materials so I knew what exactly was being taught, parents need to be involved too

When PSHE is taught by people why want to do it, who are well informed and can approach any topic raised by students it is amazing. It helps form healthy minds, healthy relationships, lowers sti's and pregnancy rates.

Some parents, for whatever reason, cannot discuss theses topics with their children. This is just so important as it provides a toolkit for life.

TheFallenNinja Sun 09-Jun-13 00:23:56

Notcitrus.

Why do you want clarification of my position? Do you want to try and change it?

You won't. I won't bang your drum. I'll bang my own if its all the same.

OddSockMonster Sun 09-Jun-13 07:38:13

Can I add faeriefruitcake, it's not only some parents cannot discuss these topics with their children, but some simply don't have that knowledge, or wouldn't know where to start.

For example, my knowledge of STIs is fortunately very limited so I wouldn't know what to say to my boys beyond 'wear a condom or you might get all sorts of diseases'. Other stuff I know more about, but I would always appreciate teachers or other professionals filling in the gaps.

OddSockMonster Sun 09-Jun-13 07:46:23

Thanks for the link MmeLindor, I started reading it thinking thinking 'that sounds like a couple of women I know', so I guess if those behaviours do start young, it's all the more reason to have age-appropriate discussions from early on.

I'll forward that to a friend, her DD is already finding some of this in the playground with classmates, aged 6/7.

(And that other piece on tomboys, could have been written about me, very interesting reading it from a parent's perspective)

amazingmumof6 Sun 09-Jun-13 08:09:56

oddscock - I do hope this 'that sounds like a couple of women I know' was not directed at me.

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