Ministers give ‘feeble’ response to call for compulsory sex education

MPs have accused the government of giving a “feeble” response to calls for sex education to be made a statutory requirement in schools.

Today, the Department for Education said that it would not make a decision until later this year on whether PSHE and sex and relationships education (SRE) should be made a compulsory part of the curriculum.

Neil Carmichael, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, said the response was particularly disappointing since it had taken the government almost six months to make it.

In February this year, the education committee published Life Lessons, a report into PSHE and SRE in schools. It criticised the government’s lack of action on PSHE after Ofsted’s 2013 verdict that the subject required improvement in 40 per cent of schools.

“It is unclear why it should have taken the government so long to publish such a feeble response,” Mr Carmichael said. “There is nothing in this response to reassure Parliament – or young people – that the situation will now improve.

“Ministers know that PSHE requires improvement in 40 per cent of schools, yet they appear to see no urgency in tackling this.”

He added that the government response failed to address the committee’s recommendation that the quality of PSHE should be measured by Ofsted, rather than using trends in teenage pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.

Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said that he understood why the government needed time to consider whether or not to make the subject statutory.

“Yet it is hard not to be deeply disappointed at another delay in the decision about statutory status, because children and young people are missing out on the education they want and need,” he said. “Until we have statutory status, we will have no guarantee that pupils will receive lessons on how to stay safe, or on preparing for the world of work.”

Yesterday, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas brought a Bill before Parliament under the 10-minute rule, calling for PSHE to be made statutory. A vote to have a second reading of the Bill in January carried by 183 votes to 44.

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