On Wednesday the 24th of November Education Secretary Michael Gov set out his white paper
I am both happy that SRE is mentioned and sad that it is so brief I can quote it in full, but does it mean anything for us teaching SRE in schools?
4.29 Children need high-quality sex and relationships education so they can make wise and informed choices. We will work with teachers, parents, faith groups and campaign groups such as Stonewall to make sure sex and relationships education encompasses an understanding of the ways in which humans love each other and stresses the importance of respecting individual autonomy.
Firstly great to see the government honestly stating that high-quality SRE is needed. It falls short of saying that it is needed in schools which is a shame, this does leave wiggle room for them to possibly claim that yes it is needed but not in school. The 4 groups it states it will work with is good but again it falls short it is missing an important element; young people! Working with a Christian charity I am encouraged to see that faith groups and campaign groups will be included. The direct mention of Stonewall is another encouraging inclusion as homophobic bullying is a significant issue for young people today. It is not the only issue and I sincerely hope the government will listen to a broad cross range of campaign groups to seek an understanding of the complete picture. More then anything else I hope the government will make genuine efforts to seek out the young peoples' views and needs.
As a passionate advocate of the need for relationship education to be central to any SRE structure I am very happy the white paper makes specific reference to "encompasses an understanding of the ways in which humans love each other" and hopefully any future measures from this paper will keep relationship education high on the agenda.
On balance I believe that this paper falls drastically short for young people and is far too vague allowing the government to state how important SRE is whilst not committing the government to any specific action or policy. Sadly I suspect that the Conservative lead coalition will end up producing a report and/or 'evidence' suggesting schools will have individual responsibility to decide what will be taught. At the same time I believe the government's focus on key subjects will mean they will not give any money or resources for PSHE and in a drive to save money schools will reduce or even drop its PSHE provision. Sadly this velvet soft endorsement of the need for SRE is hiding a string that will try and kill off SRE in schools.