The PSHE Association has published a timely document to support the teaching of “consent” in Key Stages 3 and 4. This is in response to the Secretary of State for Education’s announcement that all schools should teach consent – as part of a planned PSHE curriculum.
(Sadly, she fell short of using the word “must”)
A recent NSPCC report, based on research carried out by Bristol University and the University of Central Lancashire, outlined some alarming statistics about sexual behaviour and attitudes amongst some of our young people.
- 40% of teenage girls pressurised into having sex
- 20% of teenage relationships include physical violence and abuse
- 39% of 14-17 year old young men watch pornography “regularly”
- 44% of girls have sent explicit photographs of themselves to “partners”
- Of those, over 40% reported that these photographs had been shared with their partner’s friends
And we’re still debating whether we ought to have better, age-appropriate sex and relationships education?
In a joint foreword to the PSHE Association’s guidelines for the teaching of consent, the Secretary of State for Education and the Home Secretary say,
“We strongly welcome this new guidance on consent from the PSHE Association, which challenges myths and assumptions relating to consent, encourages open classroom discussion and reinforces the legal framework in this area. We are pleased that this consent guidance has been created to meet the needs of all pupils. It places the issue of consent in the context of young people’s real lives and explores the influence of peer pressure, alcohol and drugs, as well as the role that technology can play, for example in abuse and unhealthy relationships.”
There are some additional documents outlining FAQs about consent as well as a summary of the law on consent:
This comes a mere two weeks after the Parliamentary Education Select Committees recommended statutory PSHE for all schools in their “Life Lessons” report.
It also comes a week after Nicky Morgan said the following (as we reported in our previous post, “Nicky Morgan and a ‘Curriculum for Life’”)
“Schools must start doing more to help pupils to “manage their lives” and “stay safe” ………A good PSHE education should cover all of the skills and knowledge young people need to manage their lives, stay safe, make the right decisions, and thrive as individuals and members of modern society.”
“Some say that things like character, personal and social skills, and emotional intelligence are innate and can’t be taught. I simply disagree. You need only go to some of our finest schools operating in some of our most difficult communities today to expose this as a lie.”
Last week there was another debate on BBC Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour” where yet again, people were calling for Sex and Relationships Education for ALL children and young people. (It’s currently only statutory for secondary school pupils in state maintained schools, excluding academies and free schools.)
Today the respected headmaster of Eton College, Tony Little, has called for more appropriate Sex and Relationships Education:
Later this month Caroline Lucas, MP for the Green Party, will be asking for a second reading of her Private Member’s Bill – calling for statutory PSHE education in all schools (athough it’s unlikely to happen as MPs aren’t sitting on the allocated day.)
Procrastination can sometimes be a necessary and purposeful attribute but this is getting ridiculous.
Our children and young people are suffering from a lack of clarity, cohesion and space to talk about important issues in their lives – and precisely why? Because we’re afraid of talking about what constitutes healthy, safe, valuable and worthwhile relationships?
There’s the ubiquitous concern that talking about sex will encourage young people to experiment. As one comedienne commented last week, talking about maths isn’t necessarily encouraging our youngsters to experiment with simultaneous equations in the comfort of their own homes. Whilst being slightly flippant, it’s a valid comment.
Enough is enough.
Whilst the announcement about “consent” from Nicky Morgan and Theresa May is welcome, we reiterate the PSHE Association’s insistence that this subject should be taught within a carefully planned programme for PSHE Education. It’s not a stand-alone subject. It needs to be contextualised within a range of lessons on relationships.
And it should start earlier.
Whilst the PSHE Association has stated that these guidelines are specifically relating to sexual consent (and therefore for secondary schools only), the concept of “consent” should be taught consistently and constantly throughout a child’s education – as should the concept of safety and inappropriate touches.
If a child is taught to respect the rights of others from an early age, if they are given opportunities to learn about respecting themselves too, if they’re taught the concept of consent when sharing toys, for instance, then they’re already well versed in the concept by the time they come to sexual consent.
Every child ought to be taught that consent is about choice, the ability to choose and the freedom to choose – as well as the right to change their minds and withdraw consent at any point.
It’s a concept that, if instilled at an early age, should remain with our young people into adulthood as a learned instinct, i.e. that it’s so embedded that negotiation and agreement in everything they do is a natural way of being.
This is precisely why PSHE education should start early, immediately.
No PSHE specialist is going to encourage children to grow up too quickly. No PSHE specialist is going to suggest that children have sex as soon as the pass they age of consent. No PSHE specialist is going to tell a child how to behave.
Good quality PSHE enables.
It enables children to think for themselves, respect themselves and others, be empathetic, understand the way the body and mind works. It allows them to develop attitudes, virtues and positive values collectively and independently.
Where on earth is the harm in that?
We wonder whether the 40% of young women who feel they’ve been coerced into sexual activity would have allowed that to happen if they’d had the appropriate PSHE which they are surely entitled to throughout their time in school.