‘A huge blow to common sense’

Dame Vera Baird
Dame Vera Baird

Government plans to make teaching about sex, domestic abuse and LGBT issues compulsory in schools in England and Wales have been scrapped, in a move that Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, has described as a ‘huge blow to common sense’.

Schools at present aren’t required to cover emotional and social aspects of sex, however, campaigners, including Dame Vera, have been pushing for an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to make sexual consent, domestic violence and same-sex relationships a compulsory part of education.

Last week, however, a public bill committee voted against the idea. Dame Vera, said: “It’s every child’s right and this is being denied by the Government.”

This is despite the fact that research by Children’s Charity Barnardo’s yesterday, revealed three quarters of 11-15-year-olds questioned said they would feel safer if their lessons covered sex and relationships online.

The decision also follows a recent report by the Women and Equalities Committee, which conducted a review of sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, identified the matter as a key safeguarding issue, which needed to be addressed urgently.

For years, Dame Vera has called on the Government to make age-appropriate sex and relationship education compulsory in order to help tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE), by educating young people on the illegality of abuse and instilling them with the confidence to report it.

Dame Vera, said: “For a long time, I have said that well-taught sex and relationship education is vital for the safety and well-being of every child and young person in the country and I see this as is a huge blow to common sense.

“At the end of last year, the Government led us to believe that the issue was being made a priority matter for the Education Department, but they are now turning down an obvious opportunity to protect young people – it’s senseless.

“Unfortunately, sexting and sexual bullying have been on the rise for some time now and we need clear messages for young people – what is acceptable in relationships and what is not. This is about helping them make informed choices and learning to respect themselves as well as others.

“Educating young people about these issues must no longer be left to chance or to the individual discretion of school governors.”