Our girls need high quality inclusive Sex and Relationship Education

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2017 National Women's Conference
8 February 2017

Conference expresses concern that many girls are being left vulnerable by inadequate sex and relationship education (SRE) in schools. Conference notes that the current Children and Social Work Bill, while not the ideal legislative vehicle for introducing mandatory SRE, probably presents the best chance in this Parliament. Amendments to achieve this were tabled in January for Report Stage and further amendments are under discussion. Report Stage is likely to be taken after the February recess.

Conference believes that all children should receive high quality, age appropriate SRE which fosters gender equality and which is LGBT inclusive. This should be compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. Survey after survey shows that young women are clear that this is what they want. Yet despite pledges to address these issues, the Westminster government is dragging its heels, talking of reviews and of safeguards for faith schools.

Evidence from the End Violence Against Women Coalition shows that over a recent three year period, 5,500 sexual offences were reported to the police as having taken place in schools, including 600 rapes. Alarming numbers of young women report that they experience unwanted sexual activity, see sexual images and hear sexual name calling. There is very little information about consent and virtually none about LGBT relationships or gender identity issues. This impacts negatively on all girls and young women, not only those from LGBT families or who have questions about sexual orientation and/or gender identity, on women staff in schools and indeed all women across society.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to take urgent action to publicise both the issues and this legislative opportunity and to urge women members to lobby their MPs in support of appropriate amendments.