‘Young people denied education for safe relationships in schools in England’ BHA responds to Women and Equalities Committee consultation

11 July, 2016

proud to be a member of SEFThe British Humanist Association (BHA) has once again criticised the Department for Education’s (DfE) stance on making personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE), including sex and relationships education (SRE), compulsory in English schools. Responding to a call for evidence from the Women and Equalities Committee, the BHA stated that the DfE’s rhetoric on the importance of PSHE and SRE ‘has, for a long time, not been matched by action’. The comments come following the Government’s decision not to give PSHE statutory status in English schools, despite recommendations to that effect being made by, among others, the House of Commons Education Committee and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The BHA, which is a member of the Sex Education Forum and the PSHE Association, has said it will continue to put pressure on the Government until the right of children to comprehensive, high-quality PSHE and SRE is recognised.

Citing evidence published by Ofsted that significant improvements need to be made in the training of teachers for PSHE, as well as the time set aside for the subject in the curriculum and the rigour with which it is assessed, the BHA’s submission states that ‘it should be clear to anyone that unless the subject is given compulsory status in the curriculum, none of these issues can be properly addressed’. The submission also highlights the fact that the Government’s decision not to make PSHE compulsory flies in the face of the recommendations made by a huge number of education, health, and children’s rights experts, including the Chief Medical Officer, the Children’s Commissioner for England, and the NSPCC, not to mention the overwhelming majority of teachers, parents, and children.

In response to these recommendations, the DfE has announced various measures to tackle the poor state of PSHE and SRE in schools, including new resources for teachers and ‘computing programmes’ designed to keep children safe online. Describing these measures as ‘piecemeal’, the BHA states that ‘they represent no deviation from the unsuccessful approach that has been pursued by successive governments on these issues for years, and as such they will simply lead to a continuance of the status quo’.

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman said ‘All the evidence and all the expertise tells us that comprehensive, high-quality, and age-appropriate PSHE, including SRE, leads to the best outcomes in terms of improving sexual health, reducing teenage pregnancy, challenging gender stereotypes, educating about consent, protecting children from abuse, and tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying. Bizarrely, the Government has acknowledged all this, and yet continue to hold out on giving the subject the statutory underpinning it needs in order to be effective. We must give children the information they need to be healthy, safe, and confident, and we will continue to put pressure on the Government until they this is achieved’.


For further comment or information please contact Jay Harman on jay@humanists.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read the BHA’s submission to the Women and Equalities Committee: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/dfe-evidence-check-forum/curriculum-and-personal-social-health-and-economic-education/

Read the DfE’s evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee on PSHE: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/women-and-equalities/evidence-check/DfE-Evidence-PHSE.pdf

Read our previous news item ‘Government decides against statutory PSHE despite overwhelming support and expert evidence’: https://humanists.uk/2016/02/10/government-decides-against-statutory-pshe-despite-overwhelming-support-and-expert-evidence/

Read more about the BHA’s work on PSHE and Sex and Relationships Education:  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.