Putting the R in SRE – why I wrote to my MP again

Last night (before my MP was in the news for other reasons entirely) I joined many others across the country in emailing my MP to urge him to vote for the amendment to the Children & Families Bill being debated on Tuesday. This amendment would make PSHE and SRE education part of the statutory curriculum – much overdue, and very much needed.  More information on the Consent to Consent campaign which led to this amendment being tabled is available here.  Here’s what I wrote:

8th June 2013

Dear Tim

I am writing to ask your voting intention in regard to the amendment to the Children and Families Bill due to be debated this Tuesday, 11th June, and to urge you to vote in favour of the proposed amendment.  As you are aware, the amendment proposes changes to the curriculum that would see the addition of PSHE to the National Curriculum, make age-appropriate  Sex & Relationships education a statutory component of the curriculum at all four educational key stages, and specify that same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent be covered in the PSHE curriculum.  Building on the reasons already articulated by the Coalition of Consent Campaign, there are four reasons why I believe this amendment is not only timely, but necessary:

Currently schools are only required to ensure that pupils understand how to use contraception and why it is important. They are not required to ensure that pupils understand the context  in which contraception is used – i.e to help develop their understanding of healthy, appropriate and loving relationships.  Nor are they required to ensure that children leave school understanding what constitutes a healthy diet, or able to address poor self-esteem and low confidence.

As a parent in your constituency, I am confident that the schools my children attend understand the importance of PSHE and SRE and also that they comprehend the necessary breadth of these subjects.   But I am also very concerned about the context and culture within which these schools now operate; one where increasing test scores in core skills – important though this is – takes precedence over ensuring that children leave school as mature, confident citizens who can display both a love of learning and a readiness to take on the challenges of adult life. Anxiety about budgets and timetable capacity for key skills has, I understand, already led to schools in this region reducing pastoral support and PSHE provision. The proposed amendment would put PSHE and SRE back firmly within the school curriculum.

The UK Youth Parliament have made A Curriculum for Life (which includes compulsory PSHE, with a mandatory training programme for teachers), their priority campaign for 2013.  They did this because they understand why pupils need to be taught vital life skills at school, and because they have first-hand experience of the wide variation between schools currently in terms of both the position of PSHE on the curriculum and the consequent quality of teaching provided.  Responding to the UKYP by supporting this amendment would demonstrate that the government really is prepared to put service-users at the heart of policy-making.

Finally, the educational case for including PSHE and SRE is clear.  Pupils who demonstrate ‘risk behaviours’ (e.g. alcohol-misuse, unsafe sex, anti-social behaviours) are more at risk of school exclusion or truancy and less likely to achieve their potential. But pupils who are supported to achieve positive wellbeing (in relation to healthy lifestyles, emotional & mental wellbeing and relationships) demonstrate higher attainment.  Evidence for this is provided by  – amongst others – The Young Foundation in their report “Noticing the Change – a Framework of Outcomes for Young People in Practice” published in  March this year.

I look forward to the debate on Tuesday which is not only overdue but very much needed, and hope to hear that you have voted in favour of the amendment.

yours sincerely

Emma Bishton

One response to this post.

  1. Update: I have not had a reply from Tim Yeo as yet but it seems he did not vote in the debate. The amendment was a casualty of voting on government lines: only two coalition MPs – Julian Huppert (Cambridge) and Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) voted with Labour for the inclusion of mandatory PSHE, so the motion was not passed.


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