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Mumsnet sex education survey

When we heard that the government was conducting an internal review into Personal, Social, Health and Economics (PSHE) education, we thought it would be useful to conduct a Mumsnet sex education survey to gather your views on the thorny matter of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) - perhaps the most controversial aspect of PSHE.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jul 15, 2021

Sex education written on blackboard

Many newspaper articles get written about sex education, and many lobby groups are active on the issue, but it seemed to us that the views of parents themselves have often been overlooked.

So we asked you what you thought.

Mumsnet sex education survey results

The survey revealed just how supportive Mumsnet members are of comprehensive sex education.

  • A very high proportion (98%) were happy for their children to attend SRE lessons
  • 92% think SRE should be a compulsory subject in secondary schools
  • 69% think SRE should be a compulsory subject in primary schools
  • 90% think there should be a statutory duty on all schools, including faith schools and academies, to deliver comprehensive SRE

This is in stark contrast to the current position where there is no statutory duty on schools to provide comprehensive sex and relationship education; the absence of this statutory duty is not covered by the government's consultation.

"Our survey gives a very clear result: when parents are asked about sex and relationships education in schools, they want compulsory, appropriate education." Justine Roberts

All schools must, by law, provide a 'broad and balanced curriculum' that 'prepares young people for the opportunities and responsibilities of adult life', but how they do this is up to individual schools. In maintained schools, parts of sex education (anatomical and reproductive facts) are statutory parts of the national science curriculum. Maintained secondary schools are also required to address HIV and AIDS, and sexually transmitted infections. (Source: PSHE Association.)

Parents are entitled to withdraw their children from any sex and relationships education beyond the statutory parts of the curriculum, and the government has said it has no plans to change this. 

Of the 98% of respondents who said they were happy for their children to attend sex education lessons, 52% said it was because sex education promoted healthy relationships. Of those who were not happy for their children to attend sex education lessons (less than 1% of the total), 49% said it was because they would rather teach their children about sex themselves. And 39% of those surveyed thought parents should continue to have the right to withdraw their children from sex and relationships education.

Related: Discuss sex education on our Talk boards

In addition, 90% of those surveyed think sex education should address matters around sexual orientation (the mean age at which survey respondents think this should be addressed is 10.5); 82% think it should address sexual violence and sexual bullying (mean age: 12.3), and 80% think it should explore issues to do with sex and the media (11.8), 'sexting' (12.3), and pornography (12.8).

As Justine says: "Our survey gives a very clear result: when parents are asked about sex and relationships education in schools, they want compulsory, appropriate education. It's a concern that the government is reluctant to consult on the matter of whether all schools – including primary schools, faith schools and academies – should have a statutory duty to deliver comprehensive SRE to all children.

"We hope that the results of the government's review will reflect the wish to see broad, responsive, age-appropriate SRE in all schools, and that teachers will be given the tools they need to deliver it."

Last updated: almost 6 years ago