We must seize this opportunity to bring SRE to all young people
February has been LGBT History Month, and this year’s theme, ‘PSHE, Law and Citizenship’, reflects historical achievements (2017 is the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales) but also the continuing struggle for equality.
The Children and Social Work Bill that is currently being debated in parliament presents an opportunity to implement legislation making PSHE and SRE compulsory in all schools for all young people. PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) education, and SRE (sex and relationships education) within it, is vital in empowering young people to take control of their lives and make safe decisions. High quality PSHE and SRE promotes a good understanding of sex, including how to negotiate safer sex. It helps young people to protect the well-being of themselves and others. Yet, at the cost of young people’s physical and emotional wellbeing, politicians continue to prevaricate over whether PSHE and SRE should be made statutory.
Even when SRE is taught, it’s not always inclusive of everyone’s needs and LGBT young people often feel excluded by the content. In our 2015 ‘Boys who like Boys’ survey, three quarters of respondents had not received any information, advice or support about same-sex relationships and attraction, and a third had not received any information on HIV transmission and safer sex in SRE.
Over half of respondents had also not looked elsewhere for information about these issues – with many explaining that they were too embarrassed to do so. Young people want and need to receive this information in school. The fact that they are not getting it is especially concerning when we consider that HIV diagnoses have doubled in young gay and bisexual men in the past decade.
We are missing a key opportunity to give young people the information and support they need to protect themselves.
Our campaign #WeExist aims to bring visibility to LGBT young people’s needs and stand up for their right to an education that acknowledges their existence. With the Children and Social Work Bill set to bring the possibility of statutory PSHE and SRE centre stage again, we need to ensure that the voices of LGBT young people are not lost and that this opportunity is taken for all young people – you can get involved by writing to your MP and tweeting your support (feel free to @ your MP as well!).
The theme of LGBT History Month encourages us to think about how equality is reflected in our education. Help us put pressure on MPs to take this opportunity to finally make PSHE and SRE statutory in all schools and to remind them that it must be relevant to all young people.