BHA: All young people should be legally entitled to age-appropriate Sex and Relationships Education

Today sees the publication of a new report authored by pro-abstinence group the Family Education Trust, Unhealthy Confusion: The impact of the Healthy Schools Programme on sexual health messages in our children’s education. The group has used the report to argue that ‘The [government’s] Healthy Schools Programme is being used as a vehicle to impose a liberal and permissive type of sex education on pupils in many parts of the country.’

The British Humanist Association (BHA) believe that all young people should be entitled to statutory, age-appropriate Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), including unbiased information on contraception, abortion, and waiting before sex, and referral (if required) to contraceptive and sexual health clinics.

The organisation behind the report, the Family Education Trust, has in the past consistently expressed support for campaigns to promote abstinence and in opposition to gay rights and abortion. Earlier this year, the Trust joined the newly launched SRE Council, a coalition of groups supporting abstinence education and opposing unbiased, comprehensive SRE. The new report, which surveyed all 152 local authorities in England, found that 18% of local authorities will not deem ‘a primary school which had adopted a policy of not teaching SRE beyond the requirements of national curriculum science [to] be eligible for Healthy Schools Status’.

BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘The results of the survey show that when adjudicating the Healthy Schools Award, the majority of local authorities (between 60% and 70%, depending upon the question) leave decisions about SRE to schools. But in the minority of cases that authorities are being more prescriptive, this is to be welcomed, as primary age children should receive education about relationships, friendships, puberty and personal wellbeing, to which they have no statutory right.

‘The BHA believes that all children should be entitled to receive comprehensive, age-appropriate SRE, and that parents should not be able to deny their children the right to this important education. Evidence shows this is the best route to ensuring young people enjoy healthy relationships and practise safer sex later in life.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read the Family Education Trust report, Unhealthy Confusion: The impact of the Healthy Schools Programme on sexual health messages in our children’s education.

Read more about the Healthy Schools programme on the Department for Education website.

Currently biological elements of sex education form part of the science national curriculum, and secondary schools must additionally teach sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Further SRE forms a non-statutory part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education, and it is up to each school to determine what will be taught.

Read the BHA’s position statement on SRE.

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 contributes to debate on a wide range of ethical issues from stem cell research to sex education. The BHA is a member of the National Children’s Bureau Sex Education Forum (SEF) and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.