Today’s news review looks at the Department’s announcement today on relationship and sex education and national offer day for secondary school places
RSE and PSHE
Today, Wednesday 1 March, the Government tabled amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill that will make relationship and sex education compulsory in all secondary schools. All primary schools will be required to teach age appropriate relationships education. The amendments will also require Personal Social Health and Economic education (PSHE) to be taught in all schools in the future. This announcement has been widely covered in the media.
The current legislation is becoming increasingly outdated in a digital age and fails to address risks to children that have grown prevalent in recent years, including online pornography, sexting and staying safe online.
We have been very clear in our proposals that the focus in primary schools will be on building healthy relationships and teaching children about staying safe. When children reach secondary school, they will be taught about healthy adult relationships in more depth, with sex education delivered in that context. The amendments will continue to allow parents a right to withdraw children from sex education and schools will be required to publish a clear statement of their policy and what will be taught, so that parents can make informed decisions.
The move has been widely welcomed by a range of stakeholders.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said:
Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE teach children and young people how to stay safe and healthy, and how to negotiate some of the personal and social challenges they will face growing up and as adults. These subjects form part of the building blocks young people need to thrive in modern Britain. At the moment, too many young people feel they don’t have the relationships and sex education they need to stay safe and navigate becoming an adult.
It is time to make this change to ensure all children and young people have access to these subjects and to update the current statutory guidance for relationships and sex education which was introduced nearly twenty years ago, in 2000. We need high quality, age-appropriate content that relates to the modern world, addressing issues like cyber bullying, ‘sexting’ and internet safety.
We will now begin a review and gather expert opinions to ensure these subjects really have a positive impact on young people.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
NAHT have long advocated age-appropriate sex education and PSHE for all pupils in all schools, to help prepare young people for the challenges they will encounter in their adult lives and the current challenges they will face beyond the school gates. We welcome the duties set out today and look forward to playing our part in ensuring SRE/PSHE delivers for young people.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:
We are thrilled the Government has listened to our campaign to provide all school children with age-appropriate school lessons on sex and healthy relationships to help keep them safe. Barnardo’s has long campaigned for this vital education so children can better understand the dangers in the real world and online. We believe this will give children the knowledge and skills they need to help prevent them being groomed and sexually exploited .
Sarah Green, Co-Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
This is a real step forward in ending violence against women and girls and we commend the Government for listening to experts and responding. It opens the door to high quality relationships and sex education that will let young people have the essential conversations about consent, respect and LGBT equality. Quality RSE is a chance to talk with young people about how men and women treat each other, and to challenge the attitudes which minimise or make excuses for abuse of women and girls. It is a chance to emphasise such violence is always unacceptable, whether on our streets or in our schools.
Both young people themselves and parents are calling for a consistent approach on Relationships and Sex Education. A survey of 16 to 24 year olds carried out by the Terence Higgins Trust in July 2016 showed that 99% of young people thought Relationships and Sex Education should be mandatory in all schools; and one in seven had not received this education.
National Offer Day and Sutton Trust report
Today, Wednesday 1 March, local authorities will inform parents of the secondary school place their child has been given. To coincide with this, the Sutton Trust has released a report that claims that poorer children are less likely to win places at 500 comprehensive schools that get the best GCSE grades. The Sutton Trust claims these schools are more ‘socially selective’ than the average state school because of the effect they have on house prices in their area. This has been covered in the media by Sky News, BBC News, The Independent, The Mirror, TES, and Schools Week.
The effect the Sutton Trust describes is exactly what our plans to introduce more grammar school places will combat. By making more places available at good schools in more parts of the country we will strengthen the choice available to parents.
The proportion of parents getting a place at their first choice of school remains stable, and last year almost all parents got an offer at one of their top three preferred schools. Nearly 600,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2015, and the Government is now pushing ahead with the creation of a further 600,000 new school places as part of its wider £23bn investment in the school estate up to 2021.
We have already committed £7 billion for school places but councils are ultimately responsible for ensuring there are sufficient places in their area. To help them plan effectively we provide funding three and a half years in advance so they have time to make adjustments should local circumstances change.
A Department of Education spokesperson:
Selection by house price is simply unfair which is why we’ve already set in motion plans to tackle it. We plan to create more good school places in more parts of the country by scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, as well as harnessing the expertise and resources of our universities, and our independent and faith schools.
This will build on the work of the last six years that has seen the number of children being taught in schools that are rated good or outstanding rise by almost 1.8m – but we want to go further. We have announced twelve Opportunity Areas across England, backed with £72 million investment, where we are working to break down the barriers to social mobility that too many still face.
To see the Secretary of State's Written Ministerial Statement in full on RSE and PSHE please see here.