Child abuse scandal shows why sexual consent education should be compulsory, says Green MP

Caroline Lucas is bringing forward a bill to reform PSHE provision

Jon Stone
Wednesday 15 July 2015 16:01
Pupils in a classroom
Pupils in a classroom

Schools should be required to give children mandatory education on the issues surrounding sexual consent, the Green Party’s MP has proposed.

Caroline Lucas is to bring forward a bill in Parliament that aims to reform the provision Personal, Social, Health, and Economic education in schools.

The MP says recent high-profile sexual abuse scandals have shown the need for children to be better informed about the issues surrounding consent and sex in general.

“Nobody would suggest at all that simply the provision of PSHE would have prevented some of those scandals from happening, but at least it would have equipped kids with more tools to be able to withstand it,” she told the PoliticsHome website.

“Perhaps it might also have given them more understanding on what is ‘normal,’ in a sense, although that is quite a strange word to use; what is quite right to say ‘no’ to.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas is bringing forward a law

The Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill would make it a legal requirement for all state schools to teach PSHE, and for it to include sex and relationship education and education about ending violence against women and girls.

Parliament’s Education Select Committee recommended that such lessons be brought forward in February of this year but the Government has not yet officially responded to the call.

The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is said to be personally sympathetic to the idea of compulsory PSHE lessons.

Sexual and relationship education, a subset of PSHE, is compulsory in “maintained” schools run by local authorities, but in recent years an increasing number have become academies, which are exempt from the rule.

Current guidance issued by the Department for Education describes PSHE as “an important and necessary part of pupils’ education” and says all schools should teach it – but also that it is non-statutory. In practice many schools do not teach the subject.

“To allow teachers the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE we consider it unnecessary to provide new standardised frameworks or programmes of study,” the department says.

“However … we expect schools to use their PSHE education programme to equip pupils with a sound understanding of risk and with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions.”

Consent education was included on the curriculum for PSHE earlier this year by Ms Morgan but that subject itself is not compulsory.

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