The chairs of four cross-party parliamentary committees have written to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, expressing their ‘disappointment’ that she has failed to respond to numerous calls for comprehensive personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE), including sex and relationships education (SRE), to be made compulsory in schools.
The letter, which was prompted by the Government’s failure to meet its own deadline for responding in full to the Education Committee’s report on PSHE by the end of 2015, is signed by Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Committee; Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Committee; Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee; and Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Business Committee, all of whom recommend that PSHE and SRE be made statutory. The British Humanist Association, which has long campaigned for statutory, age-appropriate PSHE and SRE in schools, has welcomed the letter and echoed its call for the Government to respond to the committees’ recommendations.
Emphasising that PSHE is a crucial part of ‘preparing young people for life’ and ensuring they have ‘the knowledge and confidence to make decision which will affect their health, wellbeing and relationships’, the letter draws attention to the numerous committees and experts that have demanded statutory status for the subject over the last few years. They are detailed as follows:
- ‘July 2014: The Home Affairs Committee recommended as part of its inquiry into Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) that PSHE should be made compulsory, including teaching children about FGM in high prevalence areas.
- ‘January 2015: the Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended as part of its inquiry into violence against women and girls that “the UK would be in a stronger position to say that it is fulfilling the requirements of Article 14 of the Istanbul Convention if all schools were required broadly to teach the same curriculum in relation to PSHE and we believe that this national curriculum should include issues relating to violence against women and girls”.
- ‘February 2015: The Education Committee recommended that the DfE “develop a work plan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and SRE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools, setting out its strategy for improving the supply of teachers able to deliver this subject and a timetable for achieving this”.
- ‘November 2015: The Children’s Commissioner recommended that “all schools equip all children, through compulsory lessons for life, to understand healthy safe relationships and to talk to an appropriate adult if they are worried about abuse”.
- ‘December 2015: The Chief Medical Officer recommended that PSHE and Sex and Relationships Education become a “routine and, if necessary, statutory part of all children’s education”.’
The letter ends by calling on the Education Secretary to ‘make tackling the issue of PSHE in schools your New Year’s resolution’.
The BHA’s Education Campaigner, Jay Harman, said ‘This letter highlights once again that a move to statutory PSHE and SRE in schools is supported by the vast majority of parliamentarians, health professionals, children’s rights experts, and educationalists, and we applaud the chairs of each of these four committees for speaking out again. All the evidence tells us that inclusive, accurate, and age-appropriate PSHE leads to better sexual health, fewer unwanted pregnancies, a reduction in domestic violence, improved attitudes towards women, less homophobic and transphobic bullying, and a greater awareness of issues surrounding consent. We sincerely hope this will be the last time the Government has to be reminded of this before they start listening, but we certainly won’t stop campaigning until they do.’
For further comment or information, please contact the BHA Education Campaigner, Jay Harman, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0207 324 3078.
Read the Education Committee’s report ‘Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools’: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmeduc/145/145.pdf
Read the BHA’s submission to the Education Committee Select Committee’s inquiry: https://humanists.uk/wp-content/uploads/Commons-Education-Select-Committee-PSHE-and-SRE-inquiry-Written-submission-from-the-British-Humanist-Association.pdf
Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Education Select Committee describes Government’s response to its PSHE and SRE report as “feeble”’: https://humanists.uk/2015/07/16/education-select-committee-describes-governments-response-to-its-pshe-and-sre-report-as-feeble/
Read the BHA’s news item ‘Education Select Committee calls for statutory PSHE and SRE’: https://humanists.uk/2015/02/17/education-select-committee-calls-statutory-pshe-sre/
Read more about the BHA’s word on PSHE and SRE: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
The BHA is a member of both the Sex Education Forum and the PSHE Association.