by Dr Keeley Abbott, lecturer in Social Psychology at Birmingham City University

The government’s announcement this week to make Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) compulsory within all secondary schools in England represents a much welcome step towards improving the status and scope of SRE.

Since its inception, the progression of SRE has been somewhat limited, with this being partly attributable to an unsupportive policy context.

This new milestone we’ve reached sends a strong message regarding the significance of SRE, the importance of which is apparent in teachers’ discussions around SRE contained within some of my research. (Abbott, Ellis & Abbott, 2016).

Whilst this is a welcome step towards improving SRE provision, this progress does not and should not end there. As part of demonstrating a strong commitment towards SRE, the government needs to establish a clear conceptual framework that ensures commitment to inclusive provision for all pupils, with clear guidelines from which SRE educators can gain clarity and confidence. This would mean updating the current SRE guidance (2014) which remains an unchanged version of the original (2000) document.

The importance in establishing SRE as compulsory becomes crucial here. Statutory status would certainly ensure a greater number of policy recommendations translate into practice.

Improvements in SRE require policy changes at government level and are important for ensuring more coherent and comprehensive provision. Removing the right of parents to withdraw their children from SRE is an example of how to produce a greater impact, ensuring that all young people receive provision.

Read more about Dr Keeley Abbott’s research into sex education in schools.

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