New campaign for compulsory sex and relationships education in schools in England and Wales

(74 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 24-Sep-14 16:26:00


Some of you may have seen that long-term Mumsnet friends End Violence Against Women (EVAW) and Everyday Sexism have launched a new campaign to persuade the government and main party leaders to make comprehensive sex and relationships education compulsory in state-financed schools in England and Wales. (At the moment, some basic facts about reproduction, biology and STDs are on the National Curriculum, but almost everything else is left to the discretion of individual schools.)

When we asked MNers about this before, you told us very clearly that you wanted compulsory, comprehensive SRE from primary level upwards; you can see the results of the survey we ran a couple of years ago here.

So we've given our backing to this one. Justine's quote is: 'Mumsnet users are clear: they want comprehensive, compulsory sex and relationships education, and as children get older they want it to address topics like pornography, sexting, sexual violence, and meaningful consent. Both boys and girls can be vulnerable to peer pressure and abuse, and good SRE helps them to recognise the building blocks of healthy, happy relationships. Mumsnet has long called for SRE to be updated to reflect the internet age - and for teachers to be supported in delivering it - and we're delighted to be backing this important campaign.'

If you fancy getting involved, there's a petition you can sign here.


OP’s posts: |
Lottapianos Wed 24-Sep-14 16:47:23

Signed. Excellent idea and desperately needed

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Sep-14 16:50:07

not this mumsnetter i'm afraid. having worked in schools as a teacher i really don't think school's are the best equipped to provide this nor is it the kind of atmosphere and safe environment best for it. i also believe there's this mythical idea that once you say, 'there! schools can do it', it's done. there's only so much school's can do and they're mostly failing to meet all the wonder ideas that 'schools should do' already.

unless you want to put health care centres, mental health services, family planning services etc IN schools (and provide the funding to do so) you can't keep dumping all of societies needs in there.

teachers are teachers - being a maths or a french teacher doesn't magically qualify you or give you the personality type or relationships with young people required to offer these kind of specialised services. when workshops are done on topics like this they need to be in the right environment, with the right size groups, with the right (specially trained) facilitators and a very very different atmosphere of respect and safety and non combatitive relating than exists in most secondary schools.

sticking it on the curriculum does not mean dealing with it well.

MaxGuevara Wed 24-Sep-14 17:18:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lottapianos Wed 24-Sep-14 17:53:34

HoneyBadger, I hear you. Far too much gets dumped on schools and teachers are often expected to have a magic wand. But this is such a huge issue and we just cannot leave it to parents. Some parents will talk to their children appropriately at home, some will stick their heads in the sand, or worse, give their children damaging information like being gay being something to be ashamed of, or all girls who dress a certain way are tramps. This would not be a perfect solution but it would be a start. And it must be compulsory, in all schools, for all kids.

TheSameBoat Wed 24-Sep-14 17:57:47

I think it's an excellent idea. It may not fully counteract what some parents teach their children but it will give a different perspective that may well benefit children when they need it.

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Sep-14 18:51:15

lotta i don't disagree but i really think if we're determined to keep lumping all of our social, mental, emotional, health etc issues upon schools then we've got to start locating our social workers, mental health services, doctors and counsellors IN schools.

if school is meant to address every need of society then all of societies institutions and professionals need to be located IN schools.

and it can't just endlessly be tipped into the national curriculum because there aren't enough hours in the day. and it can't be done in a classroom so chocker full of teenagers that they can't shift their chair without bashing into someone and causing friction.

it could be as simple as having a day per half term where outside agencies come in and do stuff with kids or an agreed after school session for kids once every half term where they stay and do this kind of thing with outside staff specially trained to do it and without the baggage of the 'school/authority/history of relationships/etc' history.

it's not that i don't think these are needed or that schools aren't the logical physical location for them but that the infrastructure, the times, the trained specialists etc need to accommodated for. so many people never venture into a school that it's easy to think ah yes school will do it without any understanding of the bulging at the seems to breaking point system they're throwing more at.

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Sep-14 18:53:05

also bear in mind some 'kids' in school will have already committed sex offences or been victims of them. this is specialist work that few will have the kind of aptitude, understanding and personality for and even fewer will have that combined with the ability to build rapport with teenagers.

MaxGuevara Wed 24-Sep-14 19:14:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Sep-14 20:05:30

bit like inset for kids. could be a day of the holidays even. or it could be a rolling rotation of year groups being taken off timetable to do intensive workshops on x (mental health, relationship education, equality and diversity etc) delivered by external organisations and charities.

SuffolkNWhat Wed 24-Sep-14 20:06:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 24-Sep-14 20:07:42

Good idea. The petition does include: 'This needs to be backed up with statutory guidance and teacher training, formulated in consultation with relevant expert organisations, and be part of broader work to prevent abuse of women and girls' so it shouldn't be just dumping the problem on the form teacher. But even that would be better than the nothing that some kids may get.

KnackeredMuchly Wed 24-Sep-14 20:16:48

Excellent news MNHQ. Signed

fuckweasel Wed 24-Sep-14 20:20:22

One school I worked in took all of Year 9 and Year 12/13 off timetable for one day a year (different days and age appropriate topics) and brought in health care professionals to run workshops on sex, sexual health and relationships. They key thing was that teachers (tutors of the year groups involved) could opt in OR out to run sessions. Prior to this day, those that opted in (I did, even as a tutor of another year group) had training. It was brilliant. I suggested this at another school I worked in and the idea was quickly dismissed, tutors had to teach SRE whether they liked it or not. As a result, many students received poor education in this area by teachers ill informed or simply too embarrassed to talk openly.

I feel quite strongly that SRE should be compulsory in schools, BUT is must be done properly.

ChippingInLatteLover Wed 24-Sep-14 20:29:06

I would agree to it if it was being handled like fuckweasel has outlined but not in the way it's likely to be handled. I don't think schools have the time or teachers the skills to be doing this. Sure it's fine to say 'the teachers will get training' but when, it's not like they're sitting around wondering what to do with themselves is it?

morethanpotatoprints Wed 24-Sep-14 20:36:42

Me neither I'm afraid. Make it optional for those who can't be arsed to teach their kids and let those who believe its a parents job to teach their kids.
Children can't read and write as it is.

TheHoneyBadger Wed 24-Sep-14 20:42:13

i'm trying for phd funding for 2015 (on the email list for announcement of invitations to apply). if (massively unlikely) i get the funding to follow the programme of my choice i would like to research, develop and pilot mental health education for young people based loosely around the idea that you shouldn't have to have a breakdown and end up in crisis before you understand the basics of self esteem, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, social skills, basic CBT concepts etc and that awareness and understanding of what mental health is and what the features of well being are will be a step towards less rates of mental health problems and less confusion, risk and stigma when they do occur.

there is no way that my average colleague back in my teaching days could deliver the kind of approach i have in mind nor should they be expected to - especially to such massively diverse groups of young people.

be aware also that learning of that kind often involves some level of disclosure or at least vulnerability on the part of the facilitator - it is necessary to give something of oneself to expect young people to engage and give something back, it's part of creating that safe space and teachers can't do that for the most part. it's 'unprofessional', it undermines their role, they just aren't in a culture where that can be done or it is incredibly risky and brave to do it.

and also imagine going from a battling for attention maths lesson or a disciplinarian hat on telling off your form group for misbehaving in french to 'and now we're going to talk about sex and relationships'. there are only so many hats teachers can convincingly wear.

MaxGuevara Wed 24-Sep-14 20:45:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PuffinsAreFicticious Wed 24-Sep-14 21:33:01

As a mental health professional, I would have been happy to go into schools to talk about relationships/abuse/mental health. There needs to be far more cooperation between the various different professions with regard to teaching young people about this stuff. Young people already learn most of their knowledge about sex and relationships within school, usually in less than appropriate ways, so getting other professionals in to take a couple of day long workshops would, I think, be welcomed.

BathshebaDarkstone Wed 24-Sep-14 22:15:12

Done smile

KittiesInsane Wed 24-Sep-14 22:47:57

Am I the only one who read as far as 'New campaign for compulsory sex' and was a bit taken aback?


LegoCaltrops Wed 24-Sep-14 23:50:31

Signed. Some parents don't bother to discuss this with their DCs until it's too late. It's too important to leave to chance. It could be outsourced to a suitable third party to come into the school for a one-off or short series of sessions, whatever was appropriate. This could preaumably free teachers from the responsibility of having to take the classes if they didn't want to/felt ill equipped to do so. <disclaimer: I'm not a teacher so I don't know exactly how this would work in practice!>

13loki Thu 25-Sep-14 06:53:54

morethanpotatoprints The problem with an opt in (or opt out for that matter) is that some children are left out, and those parents may not actually cover SRE. As a teacher (in a country with much more comprehensive and compulsory SRE than England) I have dealt with complaints from parents about how their poor 14 year old should not have to be exposed to SRE. I am very glad (as are the students) that I can then explain to the parents that it is core content in their Biology and Civics education and they will fail if it is not covered. I do think that training for teachers needs to be provided and that teachers should opt in for teaching SRE.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 25-Sep-14 09:48:09

Morning all

Thanks for all this. We fully appreciate that it's a big ask for teachers (esp non-specialist PSHE teachers), which is why we included that bit in our quote about teachers being well supported to deliver it. As some have said, there are specialist external trainers who are happy to come into schools and deliver these parts of the curriculum, or support teachers to deliver them.

Fully appreciate that 'Put it on the National Curriculum!' is something that's easy to say and difficult to implement - we do turn down a lot of 'put it on the curriculum!' campaign requests because we know that lots of teachers on MN are sagging under the weight of all the other stuff they're asked to deliver already ;-) But MNers on the whole seem to feel strongly about the SRE issue and have told us very clearly in the past that they support its inclusion.

OP’s posts: |
TheHoneyBadger Thu 25-Sep-14 09:56:47

PSHE is usually coordinated by one individual offered all of one or if extremely lucky two responsibility points for doing it and if they're lucky maybe one free lesson a fortnight to do it in (re: virtually no extra time and one or two grand for the massive extra workload). for this they have to coordinate PHASE for the whole school and research, resource and provide support to staff for every topic that has to be covered.

sticking something on the PHASE curriculum as PHASE is currently handled is realistically a farce.

i'd love to see PHASE be a 'real' subject, taught by specialists with it's coordinators and developers well renumerated for what is vast amounts of research, creative and engaging resource sourcing and developing and massive coordination in the context of trying to engage those overloaded teachers with the subject. sadly it isn't. it's a oh god now they want us to cover this, stick it in the phase file and that's the box ticked.

maybe the real campaign should be for PHASE to be elevated to as high a position as any other subject on the curriculum and to be delivered by specialists rather than, well meant or not, just demanding another topic gets stuffed in there?

the reality is that a tick box list of topics to 'cover' is silly anyway - many of them are all part of the same overarching themes and given the right context and resources could be made a really coherent approach to health and well being and ethical behaviour.

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