New report finds that SRE is inadequate or absent in many UK schools

Date: 26th July 2016

'SRE: Shh... No Talking' highlights that sex and relationships education (SRE) is inadequate or absent in many schools across the UK (including Scotland). The report was published following a survey of over 900 young people aged 16-24.

It was revealed that:

  • 99% of young people surveyed thought SRE should be mandatory in all schools;
  • 97% thought it should be LGBT inclusive;
  • one in seven respondents had not received any SRE at all;
  • over half (61%) received SRE just once a year or less;
  • half of young people rated the SRE they received in school as either 'poor' or 'terrible';
  • just 2% rated it as 'excellent' and only 10% rated it as 'good'.

Meanwhile, several key topics were conspicuously absent from respondents' experiences of SRE:

  • 75% of young people were not taught about consent;
  • 95% had not learned about LGBT sex and relationships;
  • 89% were not taught about sex and pleasure;
  • 97% missed out on any discussion around gender identity;
  • three out of five respondents either didn't remember receiving information on HIV in school (32%) or didn't receive information on HIV in school (27%).

According to the chief executive of the Trust, these survey results shows that a move towards compulsory SRE is necessary to avoid a "safeguarding crisis". The report points out that the guidance on sex education is now older than many people receiving the education.

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) prepares children and young people for the physical, social and emotional changes they are going to face. It is necessary for all children and young people to receive high quality, comprehensive, age-appropriate, LGBT-inclusive SRE. SRE improves young people's sexual health, delays sexual activity and increases the use of contraceptives.

The Terrence Higgins Trust believe SRE should be part of the statutory national curriculum, as part of a broader programme of PSHE. They are continuing to campaign for this.


New Concluding Observations

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in June released a new set of recommendations for the UK - including Scotland - known as Concluding Observations, last updated in 2008. These Concluding Observations highlight where there are still gaps in policy, practice and legislation in fulfilling children's rights. Echoing many of the concerns found in the Terence Higgin's Trust report, Concluding Observation 64b recommends that the State Party:

"Ensure that meaningful sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum for all schools, including academies, special schools and youth detention centres, in all areas of the State party. Such education should provide age-appropriate information on: confidential sexual and reproductive health-care services; contraceptives; prevention of sexual abuse or exploitation, including sexual bullying; available support in cases of such abuse and exploitation; and sexuality, including that of LGBT children".