Sex and relationship education to be made compulsory in all English schools
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Following pressure and consistent lobbying from MPs, charities and pressure groups, Education Secretary Justine Greening has today announced that sex and relationships education (SRE) is being made compulsory in all schools in England. Previously, sex and relationships education had been compulsory only in English council-run schools, but this decision means that every school in England will be required to teach children from the age of four about what constitutes safe and healthy relationships, and come secondary school subjects such as “age-appropriate” sex and recent dangers such as revenge porn. This will be put forward by the government as an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill. The government claims this change is necessary due to the rise in social media and the effect it can have on young people today, citing the rise in sexting and the spread of sexual images via the internet, which can be classed as sexual bullying. Campaigners had been fighting to make SRE compulsory, and Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Sarah Champion has recognised this effort by claiming the proposal marks a “significant shift” in government opinion. Currently many schools don’t teach about the importance of consent, and only schools controlled by councils are legally required to teach secondary school pupils about sex as part of the biology curriculum – academies and free schools have been exempt. The NUS has also called for SRE to be made more LGBT+ inclusive, with SRE often being focused on heterosexual relationships. Parents still have the right to withdraw their children from SRE classes, with groups such as Christian Concern being opposed to the government’s proposed change. However, the Church of England is expected to announce its support for compulsory SRE.