Will future generations finally be offered a decent sex and relationship education?

The House of Lords will decide whether to make the subject compulsory: let's hope they make the right choice

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The Independent Online

I am holding my breath as I write this, almost giddy with excitement and yet nervous as hell.  Today might just be the day we say “no more” to our woeful levels of sexual ill health and unacceptable rates of teenage pregnancies.

Unlike other areas of public health, sexual and reproductive health are reasonably simple to sort out: provide good quality education alongside accessible, integrated services and you’re pretty much there. 

But hands up who had decent sex and relationships education at school. Anyone? And yet the evidence shows it delays sexual activity, reduces partner numbers, increases contraception and condom use and teaches the value of meaningful relationships.

Still, no Government has yet been brave enough to make sex ed a compulsory part of the national curriculum. Children are left to seek the information they need from the playground, or more worryingly, the internet, running the risks of misinformation and personal danger we know too well.

We could very easily set our children up for life with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to enjoy healthy, respectful relationships.  Instead, we pop on a 20 minute DVD about the biology of conception, and consign a hapless science teacher to the annual fate of fitting a condom over a cucumber.

It’s just not good enough.  Which is why so many people will be holding their breath with me as the Lords vote on making sex ed compulsory today.  Keep everything crossed that they get it right because it would have the single biggest impact on reducing future rates of teen pregnancies and sexual ill health for the generations to come. We owe them nothing less.

And for those of us trying to manage fertility, stay healthy and enjoy our sex lives today, there’s hope on the horizon too.  News today from Public Health England might just lead to the kind of integrated, accessible and people-centred services that health reformers and service users have long-called for.

Imagine a world where the full range of contraceptive methods are available to all women, right alongside sexual health services. Dare to dream about services available and accessible at a time to suit us, when and where we need them.

So forgive my excitement today, the 28th January. Perhaps it will turn out to be just another Tuesday. But it could just go down in history as the day we turned the corner on sexual ill health and unwanted pregnancy in this country for good.