A Setback for Relationships and Sex Education?

Yesterday the House of Commons voted against amending the Children and Families Bill to make relationships and sex education a statutory part of the national curriculum. There were 219 votes for and 303 against.

Labour’s shadow home affairs minister Stella Creasy was one of three shadow ministers who proposed the amendment – the others were Lisa Nandy (shadow minister for children) and Sharon Hodgson (shadow minister for children and families).

Stella Creasy MP

Stella Creasy MP

This morning an interview with Stella Creasy was broadcast on BBC Radio 4, in the course of which Stella said she was ‘gobsmacked’ that the government doesn’t see the need for comprehensive and compulsory education for relationships and sex – in spite of all the evidence that young people are exposed to domestic violence, sexual harassment, forced marriages, female genital mutilation, etc, etc. She also pointed out that there is overwhelming support for these issues to be discussed – teachers, parents and the pupils themselves believe that schools should provide safe spaces and expert guidance for developing these important ‘life skills’.

But here’s the problem of the BBC’s journalism in a nutshell. Instead of having a mission to pursue truth and basic reality the BBC now feels it has a mission to provide a “balanced” coverage of whichever issues are under the spotlight. Hence Jeni Murray asked the following question, “The education secretary Michael Gove has resisted the change. Doesn’t he have a point when he says schools should focus on academic achievement because there is evidence that the better educated a child is, the less likely they are to indulge in risky behaviour?”

Where to begin with such a crass question, and such a ridiculous proposition? NO – he does NOT have a point. For the BBC to suggest that this might be a reasonable belief is bound to give it some credibility in the minds of some BBC listeners. If Jeni Murray had wanted to act as devil’s advocate in a more neutral way she could have said, “Do you agree with Mr Gove that . . . ” rather than, “Doesn’t he have a point?”

It’s ludicrous to suggest that the better educated amongst us don’t have difficulties with personal and sexual relationships. It’s crazy to claim that schools needn’t bother with helping young people to understand relationships, conflict, abuse and their own sexuality as long as they’re promoting high academic attainment. What kind of mad world do Mr Gove and his colleagues live in, and why is the BBC propagating this nonsense?

As for being “less likely to indulge in risky behavior” when pupils achieve well in academic tests and exams – is a young person who is sexually abused “indulging in risky behaviour”? Is someone who is forced into a marriage “indulging in risky behaviour”? Is someone who is genitally mutilated “indulging in risky behaviour”? Is being sexually harassed “indulging in risky behavior”? Indeed, is any relationship or physical intimacy “indulging in risky behavior”?

Was it really necessary to ask that completely nonsensical question? To consider such an idea is to give it some sort of legitimacy, especially when you say, “Doesn’t he have a point?”

Are the BBC’s journalists allowed to weigh up the evidence and the strengths of  arguments and ask only reasonable questions that allow us a better insight into reality?

The fight goes on, on so many fronts.

In the meantime, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent schools from choosing to provide the very best education for relationships and sex that they can muster, and it’s vital that they do so – regardless of whether it’s compulsory or not.

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About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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