A new report from the Terrence Higgins Trust suggests that sex and relationship education (SRE) is not fit for the smartphone generation, with half of students surveyed rating the education they received on the topic to be poor or terrible.
The report, “SRE: Shh…No Talking,” found that of the 914 people between the ages of 16 and 24 to be interviewed for the survey, 75% said they were not taught about sexual consent, with one in seven saying they did not receive any sex and relationship education at all. In addition, 95% reported not receiving any education concerning LGBT relationships.
Performed by the HIV and sexual health charity, the survey noted that such erratic sex and relationship education that is of poor-quality in schools is creating a “safeguarding crisis” for children. It calls the current state of SRE in the country “unfit” for the smartphone generation, saying that it leaves children open to bullying, abuse, and poor mental and sexual health, writes Lizzie Parry for The Daily Mail.
“The government’s quiet blocking of compulsory SRE will condemn another generation of young people to leave school armed with little to no information on issues like LGBT relationships, gender identity and consent.”
“Without trusted information from schools on anything other than the biological basics of heterosexual sex, young people will turn to less reliable sources such as the internet or their peers as they navigate life outside the classroom,” said Ian Green, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Despite advice to the contrary from parents, educators, the education select committee, and young people, the government refused to make SRE a requirement in schools earlier this year. Meanwhile, overwhelming support to make the topic mandatory in schools has been received by the women and equalities select committee. Of those who responded to the recent survey, 99% said they felt SRE should be mandatory.
SRE is currently only a requirement in state-maintained secondary schools, around 40% of all schools. Meanwhile, primary schools, academies, free schools, and private schools can decide for themselves if they want to include the topic, reports Karen McVeigh for The Guardian.
A 2013 Ofsted report held similar findings, saying that SRE teaching was inadequate or in need of improvement in 40% of schools.
According to the new report, participants said the majority of the SRE they received dealt solely with biological topics including reproduction, body parts, and heterosexual sex.
The report also found just 10% of respondents rated SRE as “excellent,” with an additional 2% rating it as “good.” In addition, 61% said they received SRE only once a year or even less. Close to 97% of those that said they did receive SRE could not recall being taught about gender identity, while 89% said they were not taught about sex and pleasure.
Although 97% said they believed the topic should be included in SRE, just 5% said they were actually taught about LGTB sex and relationships, writes Ian Green for The Huffington Post.
Green said he was shocked that SRE guidance had not been updated with the Department for Education for 16 years.
“Young people are getting information about sex and relationships in a world before social media existed, before smartphones, before equal marriage or civil partnerships,” said Green. “It is wholly unfit to prepare them for the realities of sex and relationships in 2016.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department for Education stated that high-quality SRE is a necessary component of a complete education in order to help young people prepare for life in the modern world. The spokesperson stated that the current guidance is clear that young people need to feel that SRE is relevant to their needs, whatever they may be.
The department noted that they are working with leading headteachers and practitioners in order to deliver high-quality health education and to allow teachers to tailor the lessons in order to suit their individual students.