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NUS and leading youth organisations call for statutory sex education in all party manifestos

Thursday 16 October 2014 Welfare and Student Rights

NUS today announced that it has joined the Sex Education Forum’s 'SRE - It’s My Right' campaign, along with leading youth organisations UK Youth and the UK Youth Parliament to urge all political parties to commit to statutory sex and relationship education (SRE) in their general election manifestos.

Statutory status would allow SRE to be treated as other subjects, with teachers getting the training they need and enough time being allocated in school timetables for the subject to address real life issues, including respectful relationships and consent.

The call comes as the Education Select Committee prepares to hear evidence (October 21) about the quality of SRE in schools and the need to make personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education statutory.

NUS Vice President Colum McGuire said:

'Sex and relationships education (SRE) is failing millions. It is not currently compulsory for schools to teach young people about sexual consent and healthy relationships, and LGBT relationships often get neglected altogether. Issues such as online pornography or abuse remain unaddressed.

'Ignoring all of this is just completely unrealistic. It will never go away – it's life. Sexual consent, learning about equal and respectful relationships, gender stereotypes and skills such as media literacy and communication need to be part of every young person’s education.

'For NUS representing seven million students, means we understand the realities of students’ lives and we knew that it was vital to call for statutory sex education in the NUS general election manifesto – A new deal for the next generation – and becoming a member of Sex Education Forum strengthens this call.'

UK Youth Major Programmes Lead Steve Turner, said:

'We are seeing an increasing demand from youth workers and other professionals for support on addressing issues such as digital safety, the impact of internet pornography in young people, and safeguarding.

'We believe that this is due to the disparity of provision of SRE in PSHE in schools, as it is not a compulsory subject. The current government SRE guidance was published in 2000 and yet it is clear that with the increasing access that young people have to the internet, and the means to do this through smartphones and tablets, that young people need safeguarding through education about the dangers.

'We have  joined the Sex Education Forum as a core member and fully support the ‘SRE – It’s my right’ campaign, as we believe that it is vital that all young people have access to robust SRE as part of PSHE, and that PSHE becomes compulsory, so there is an end to the current lottery of provision.'

Ife Grillo, British Youth Council Trustee and Member of the UK Youth Parliament, said:

'The British Youth Council and the UK Youth Parliament both support the Sex and Relationships Education – ‘It’s My Right’ campaign because these are issues young people have been calling for to be established year after year.

'It’s not enough for a piecemeal approach to whether these subjects are taught. It’s the right of every individual to access good education about sex and relationships, and for this fundamental life skill to be regarded as a priority alongside academic subjects.

'A good education is meant to give young people the ability to make informed choices about their future and their present and this couldn't be more accurate than when looking at sex and relationships education.'

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said:

'We are delighted to have the combined support of NUS, UK Youth and the UK Youth Parliament for our ‘SRE – It’s my right’ campaign. Young people have been vocal in their calls for better sex and relationships education for over a decade, and today’s announcement shows a strength in numbers, which must be recognised by all political parties as they consider their commitments on education.'