• Sex and Relationship Education has huge benefits for all: Why isn’t it compulsory?

    By Karen Dickinson

    **This piece contains references to content that some readers may find upsetting or triggering**

    This year marks the 25th anniversary of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign, which runs from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls on November 25th to Human Rights Day on December 10th. The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Make Education Safe for All’, which recognises the difficult situation for millions of girls and boys, and young women and men, whose human right to education is jeopardised by violence, lack of resources or discrimination.

    campus-classroomIn the UK, there is a growing call for Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to be made compulsory in all schools, whether they are primary or secondary, state or private. Current provision of SRE is very inconsistent, and a recent survey of 22,000 young people by the UK Youth Parliament found that 40% said their SRE was either poor or very poor, and 43% hadn’t received any at all. Another survey by ICM on behalf of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) discovered that 77% of young people feel that they don’t have enough support or information to deal with physical or sexual violence. Young LGBT people feel particularly poorly provided for by current SRE; a report by the Terence Higgins trust found that 95% of young people received no education about LGBT relationships in SRE and 97% were not taught about gender identity.

    #SREnow is a combined campaign by the Everyday Sexism Project and End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) that has this cause firmly at its heart. They are asking for SRE to go beyond the simple biological facts of sexual reproduction and offer comprehensive information on sexual consent, LGBT rights, gender stereotypes, online pornography and all the other tools young people need to form healthy and safe relationships. They say:

    “We believe it is essential that SRE is delivered as part of a ‘whole school’ approach, supported by teacher training; improved school leadership; a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and bullying in schools and a comprehensive review of current statutory guidance on child protection and safeguarding.”

    You can support this vital campaign by signing their petition or sending an email or tweet to Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening.

    Much closer to home is the Bristol Ideal. This is a list of criteria for local schools to meet that will make a huge impact on curbing domestic and sexual violence and promoting healthy relationships. Research has found that domestic and sexual violence and abuse are big public health issues in Bristol and cost the city over £40 million a year, and the Bristol Ideal focuses on prevention, examining the very important role that schools can play. Like SREnow, the Bristol Ideal provides a ‘whole school’ approach, which aims to address the needs of pupils, staff and the wider community, and the entire learning environment of the school. You can find out how to involve your school and work towards a Bristol Ideal award on their website.

    bristol-ideal     srenow

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