Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke and Chair of Women and Equalities Committee has launched a campaign #supportSSRE to make age appropriate Sex and Relationship Education statutory for school children. The campaign follows research from Barnardo’s showing 7 in 10 secondary school children want SRE to be compulsory and a report published by the Women and Equalities Committee that exposed the scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence in British schools.
Maria said “Children are clear they want SRE to be compulsory and are calling for the Government to help make that happen.
“Cyberbullying, online abuse and sexual harassment in schools are all part of teenage life in Britain today. Children are asking Government to put compulsory SRE in place to help them cope better and to feel safer.
“Leading charities such as Barnardo’s, National Children's Bureau, Plan International UK, Terrence Higgins Trust and The Children's Society are all supporting this important call for action to make SRE compulsory for all school age children."
Barnardo’s is supporting the campaign and Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
“Barnardo’s has long campaigned for age appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) for all children in England as we know this essential information will help protect them.
“In our poll of almost 1,000 11 to 15 year olds in England last week, the overwhelming majority told us they would be safer if they had SRE school lessons.
All children are vulnerable to online grooming, and they have told us they want help to understand the digital dangers and risks around sharing images of themselves.
We know parents want their children to have SRE lessons too. Last year 8 in 10 parents said SRE would help their child understand sexual behavior and keep them safer.
Our specialist services sees firsthand the effects grooming and exploitation has on children. The government must give all children the knowledge to help protect them."
Plan International UK is supporting the campaign and Chief Executive, Tanya Barron said:
“Our own research late last year was abundantly clear. Girls across the UK are suffering harassment at school, they don’t feel safe online, and they are scared on the street. And they are telling us unequivocally that mandatory and good quality sex and relationships education is one of the most important ways to help change this situation, which should shame us all.”
Terrence Higgins Trust is supporting the campaign and Chief Executive, Ian Green said:
“Sex and Relationships Education is a safeguarding necessity, but our recent report showed that 1 in 7 young people missed out on SRE completely. Where it is happening, it’s only covering the biological basics and rarely covers vital issues such as consent, LGBT relationships and HIV. This can have devastating effects on young people’s sexual and mental health.
“We need to give all young people the tools to make informed decisions and to have healthy relationships, which they are ready for and want. This requires legislative change to make SRE compulsory in every school.”
The Children’s Society is supporting the campaign and Chief Executive, Matthew Reed said:
“The urgent need for schools to deliver high quality sex and relationships education can no longer be ignored.”
“The Children’s Society’s own research has shown that there are links between poor relationships, low self-esteem and children affected by substance misuse and sexual exploitation. It is unacceptable that guidance on teaching sex and relationships education was last updated almost two decades ago, before the arrival of social media. The internet can be a force for good in children’s lives, but they must be equipped with the skills to navigate it safely and with a critical understanding that not everything they see is representative of real life.
“It is high time that all children receive both the education required to help make safe and informed choices, and a safe forum to openly discuss and ask questions about sex, sexuality and relationships.”:
National Children’s Bureau is supporting the campaign and Chief Executive, Anna Feuchtwang said:
“Government must act now to make sex and relationships education compulsory for all children in all schools. This is essential in order to protect children from harm. A recent Sex Education Forum survey found 50% of young people were not taught at primary school how to get help if they experienced unwanted touching or sexual abuse. Across the country, children are being denied the tools they need to be safe, happy and confident, so they can deal with challenges like sexting, STIs, sexual bullying, unwanted pregnancies, or online grooming.
Learning about their bodies and respectful relationships is every child’s right: one we cannot ignore any further.”
Girlguiding is supporting the campaign and Girlguiding Advocates said:
‘We’re really pleased to see this further campaign to make SRE statutory. Since Girlguiding’s Girls Matter campaign in 2014, we have called on the government to introduce high quality compulsory Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in all schools.
‘Research from our Girls’ Attitudes Survey shows three quarters of girls (74%) aged 11 to 21 want SRE to be taught in school, and this has been reaffirmed by research from Baranardo’s which found three quarters of young people said compulsory SRE would make them feel safer.
‘Young people’s voices need to be listened to and it’s great to hear politicians are clearly saying this too. Introducing compulsory, high quality SRE, to include consent, tackling violence against women and girls, online abuse, gender equality and LGBTQ and healthy relationships, needs to happen. It will equip young people with the tools and knowledge they so desperately need to support them throughout their lives and we think it will make a significant difference to improve young people’s wellbeing.’
Maria Miller MP said; "I hope more charities and children's organisations will join the campaign and urge everyone to show their support by tweeting #supportSSRE”