Last week, the House of Lords opposed an amendment to the Children and Families Bill which would have made Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) compulsory in all state schools within the UK. The new rulings would have ensured that all pupils were given teaching not only about the science and mechanisms involved in sex, but also the emotional and social aspects surrounding the subject - with topics ranging from same-sex relationships to sexual and domestic violence.Personally, I am totally appalled that the amendments were rejected – the 142-209 defeat encapsulates just how out-of-touch the House of Lords are to the teenagers and young people of today.
As it stands the laws relating to SRE today were set almost 15-20 years ago. The Education Act (1996) states that all schools must provide an up-to-date policy that describes the content and organization of their SRE, so that parents are able to inspect the curriculum – which as a minimum must provide information about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDSonly. The Learning and Skills Act (2000) requires that SRE must include teaching about marriage and its importance for family life and raising children (how very inclusive).
These two acts are completely inadequate for the young people of today. They were completely inadequate for the young people 15-20 years ago.
HIV, AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhoea and all manner of STIs are negative consequences of sex. They should of course be avoided whenever possible (even though contraception teaching is not compulsory under current guidelines). But what about the positive consequences of sex? Intimacy, confidence, personal development, pleasure? Focussing on the negative outcomes of sex is not an effective technique to empower the young people of today to make informed decisions about their own sexuality, enabling them to develop their own safe and satisfying sex life.
Young people actually have sex?!Sorry to break the news to you not-so-young guys in Westminster but it’s happening and it’s resulting in high numbers of teenage pregnancies year-on-year. The UK has five times the number of teenage pregnancies of more open societies such as the Dutch. So what is it that they are doing that we are not?
TALKING ABOUT SEX!!!
I don’t mean fertilisation, sperm, ovum, baby, marriage, sexual intercourse. I mean body image, respect, intimacy, union, fun, serious, couple, single, meaningful, meaningless. But above all I mean healthy, happy, unpressured. I mean personal choice, free from judgement.
A skyscraper is not built from the penthouse down – you start from the foundations and work up. The foundations to a happy, fulfilled and healthy sexual life go back to all of those basic principles. Principles that should be taught in schools.
A national curriculum would help to crack the sexual pressures that face all young people living in the UK today. “Losing the V-plates” was always a hot topic when I was in school, and I know for certain that it’s probably even higher on the social agenda for the young people of today. Back when I was in the “awkward teen phase” (not that long a go), Rihanna wasn’t always as naked as she is now, there were nowhere near as many songs about sex in the charts and porn was nowhere near as easily available.
Sex in the media is portrayed as dirty, filthy, fun – which of course it can be when the partakers are in the right state of mind. It doesn’t show the trail of low self-esteem and poor body image that it can leave behind if the participants are pressured into that kind of situation. On the other hand, less frequently is an intimate beautiful love scene shown – showing how meaningful sex can be (and possibly boring to some people). And of course, most of the sex shown on TV is straight sex! Where are the same sex encounters?! Where are the transgender community? The asexuals?
Schools are establishments of education. Places were children go in order to grow into young adults and become prepared for the big bad world. Why not let them teach about sex and relationships? Yes, the science and horrifying pictures of genital warts does play a part (a very VERY small part) in the education relating to SRE, but what about the rest?
By opting against these amendments last week, the House of Lords has short-changed the future adults of the UK. They have eradicated the opportunity to learn, to form educated opinions, views and experiences about the relationships they may form.
In order for humanity to continue growing and existing, sex needs to happen. It’s inevitable that nature will take over and people with fill their thirst for knowledge with whatever resources they can. But of course without a national curriculum, with standardised information where are they to go? I dread to think…