14 Reasons Sex Education Needs To Be Mandatory In Schools

Sex and relationships education (SRE) is something young people in the UK receive in piecemeal. While state schools teach SRE as part of the National Curriculum, free schools, private schools and academies don’t have to follow the National Curriculum and faith schools can tinker with what they teach according to religious principles.

However, this means that many young people grow up incredibly ignorant about what consensual sex and healthy relationships involve. That’s the argument posited by The End Violence Against Women Coalition, who, along with EverydaySexism, launched by MAKER Laura Bates, has initiated a campaign for #SRENow. The campaign has unveiled an advert showing how, if it was “Any Other Subject” that was taught so inconsistently, there would be wider outcry. 

As well as a petition with over 40,000 signatories, the campaign has wide support from many charities, institutions, activists, writers and academics, with 50 of them sending an open letter addressed to Education Secretary Justine Greening, requesting that she make SRE mandatory as soon as possible.

MAKERS got in touch with some of these people to find out, in their words, why SRE should be compulsory, and delivered now.

Rachel Horman, Chair of the Board for Paladin, National Stalking Advocacy Service: “The lack of understanding that male attention is not automatically welcome and sex is not a birthright allows for stalking, domestic abuse and rape to flourish and be accepted as just ‘boys being boys’ which is damaging for everyone in society.”

Magdalena Gulcz-Hayward, sexual violence prevention worker for Gloucester Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre: “Survivors of sexual violence tell us that they were never taught about consent, that consent was and is important. By teaching young people about consent we can prevent rape.”

Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE, London School of Economics and Political Science: “Teenagers now explore, experiment with and sustain relationships online as well as offline. This considerably complicates matters of consent, privacy, intimacy and anonymity, and is resulting in a range of problems as well as opportunities. I want these to be discussed with children (yes, starting as young as possible) and not as part computer science but as part of SRE, where it belongs.”

Hanna Naima McCloskey, Founder & CEO of Fearless Futures, a group working to empower young women: "Truly understanding consent is absolutely critical in building a culture that positively transforms gender power relations, giving people space to be who they are and to live freely and fully.”

Pavan Amara, founder of My Body Back, a project offering help to women survivors of rape and sexual assault: “So young people are able to make sexual choices that have a positive impact on their lives, and are informed enough to recognise and end abusive relationships.”

Charlotte Gage, Partnerships Project Officer, Bristol Zero Tolerance, seeking a city free from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation: “We want to ensure that all young people have access to this information and education to enable them to make informed decisions and to make all forms of gender-based violence unacceptable and eventually eradicated.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid: “Violence against women and girls is rooted in misogyny; education is vital in order to unpick these attitudes and challenge our victim-blaming culture.”

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner: “Sex and relationship education is vital in ensuring our children grow up happy and healthy, with positive relationships based on empathy and respect.”

Jayne Bullough, Training Coordinator at Rape Crisis South London / Surrey & Sussex: “Young people must grow up understanding all forms of abuse are unacceptable, the only person responsible for abuse is the person perpetrating and for anyone who has survived abuse, they aren’t to blame and there are specialist support services available. Prevention with children and young people now is crucial to preventing sexual violence and harassment in the long term.”

Heather Savigny, Associate Professor Gender & Politics, Bournemouth University: “Understanding consent in sexual relationships is fundamental to protecting girls from physical and emotional sexism and trauma, and in helping boys and girls understand the bedrock of all of their gendered relationships.”

Vanessa Diakides, Youth Programme Lead, FORWARD: “Tackling FGM means removing taboos around talking about girls’ bodies, health and rights. SRE allows students to explore these issues safely.”

Justine Roberts, CEO of Mumsnet: "Mumsnet users support SRE because children need help to navigate a complex world and develop healthy relationships.”

Penny Gane, chair of Bristol Women’s Voice and Bristol Women’s Commission: “The Bristol Ideal has already made great strides in improving SRE in Somerset and Avon, but there are still thousands of pupils going without invaluable guidance and education.”

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive: "To teach mutual respect, the meaning of consent & instil a zero tolerance of violence."

NEXT: Get to Know Laura Bates »

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Photo Credit: SRENow on YouTube