Leaders’ responses to open letter show no cross-party consensus on LGBTI inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.
There has been a mixed response to an open letter to the party leaders calling for: ‘All political parties to commit to statutory age-appropriate SRE which includes content on same-sex relationships.’
Whilst all three parties acknowledged the importance of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) in their responses to an open letter on the subject published today, only Labour and the Lib Dems committed to statutory age-appropriate SRE which includes content on same-sex relationships should they come to power.
David Cameron stated: “I strongly agree with the importance of high-quality PSHE education in schools” but did not refer to LGBTI young people in his response to the campaign. The Conservative leader went on to say “Schools should consider the needs of their pupils, which differ from school to school…”
Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) responded to his comments: “There are LGBTI young people at every school. They all have a need and a right to learn about healthy and safe relationships and sex. This is equally true in every school.”
Responding to the campaign, Ed Miliband acknowledged that it is important we “support young gay people in schools and help ensure that all young people leave education with the right attitudes and values…”
Nick Clegg stated: “[curriculum content] should recognise the full range of different relationships, including those between two people of the same sex.”
Cliff Joannou, who devised the ‘Same Sex SRE’ campaign, said: “The current policy is completely inadequate to prepare all young people for life in the modern world. Social media, the internet and smartphones expose young people to all sorts of pressures such as issues around body image and inappropriate imagery. In addition, LGBTI young people find they are further marginalised or ignored by the education system. I welcome the commitment to age appropriate LGBTI inclusive SRE from Labour and the Liberal Democrats to tackle this. It’s disappointing that by refusing to acknowledge the need for statutory, inclusive SRE the Conservatives continue to ignore the health and wellbeing of all young people, both heterosexual and LGBTI. In the least for David Cameron to reply to our letter regarding these LGBTI-specific issues without acknowledging any reference to ‘LGBTI’ is unacceptable.”
Gold continued: “Across the board LGBTI young people have worse sexual health than heterosexual people. In fact HIV diagnoses amongst young gay men have doubled over the past ten years. Worryingly one in three 16-24 year olds report they don’t know enough to prevent HIV transmission during sex. Yet LGBTI young people also report they receive no sex education appropriate for their needs. We need to be teaching all pupils how to stay safe and healthy, until then we are failing in our duty to the young people of this country.”
The ‘Same Sex SRE’ campaign, led by Cliff Joannou of QX Magazine and NAT, sent an open letter to political leaders in the UK, highlighting the urgent need to make Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) statutory in all schools – as well as appropriate for LGBTI young people.
The letter was signed by a coalition of LGBTI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex) organisations, campaigners and media, including Peter Tatchell, Conservative Peer Lord Fowler, Dr Christian Jessen and LGBTI and sexual health charities and NGOs. The letter outlined the elevated rates of poor sexual and mental health amongst LGBT people.
 NAT survey data from December 2013 showed knowledge among gay men aged 16-24 to be lower than those in older age groups. Further information on the results can be found here
Notes to the editor:
The hashtag #SameSexSRE is being used in conjunction with the campaign. The original open letter and full list of signatories can be found here.
Responses from the leaders of the three main political parties can be found here:
For further information and interview requests with any of the above signatories or young LGBTI people for case studies, please contact: