I have had a few discussions recently about who is responsible for teaching sexual education, should it be the responsibility of teachers or parents? Maybe it should be a combination of both, but there are indeed a lot of discussions around the subject. I have changed my view about this slightly over the years; I was always of the opinion that sex education should be the role of the parent, in fact, I believe social learning should be a parental responsibility and not something they can wash their hands of because they will learn it in school.
When I first qualified as a teacher in 2001 I believed, teachers should be teaching academic subjects and parents should be responsible for social teaching, I have changed my opinion of this in the last five years or so. If we look at things that really should be taught how to educate young people it probably is way beyond the scope of everyone but the most clued-up parents. It also has taken on a much broader range since I learned about these things in the early ’80s. So, what we are looking at now is a strategy of age-suitable sex and relationship education in schools that will tackle a vast variety of areas.
I think the time of sex education being taught by the Science/Biology teacher must be replaced by PSHE specialist practitioners who have vast knowledge in all areas of sexual and relationship education. There is no doubt this can be achieved in secondary schools, but I am not sure how well it can be done in primary schools where it is probably not feasible in the social climate to have a PSHE specialist on staff. What could happen though if this is such a target for the government is to deliver extra funding for every school to have a PSHE specialist employed, whether it is a primary or secondary school? It is very well for the government to say these things should happen, but this needs to be backed up with the resources to implement it.
There are of course other issues that are holding things back on this problem, with the increase in free schools and there being still many faith schools around, this muddies the waters on the sex education strategy. Should certain schools be allowed to withdraw from the plan? If OFSTED is inspecting you, should you be sanctioned in the inspection for not having a sex education strategy? Should certain schools only be required to deliver part of the policy,, some sex education is better than none.
Going back to what I said about parents, I believe they should work hand in hand with teachers to deliver a sound strategy of sex and relationship education. There are going to be many areas that parents do not have the current underpinning knowledge about, and this is where PSHE practitioners will shine. It is worrying that during OFSTED inspections that sex education is only mentioned in 1% of reports, this must change if we are going to get serious about this.
Do I believe in compulsory sex and relationship education? Yes, I do for all children in all schools, whether they are primary, secondary, free or faith schools. This is not 1981 anymore when the Biology teacher would spend a lesson talking about reproduction and possibly puberty, we are in 2017 now, and a comprehensive sex and relationship education plan is necessary, so parents, teachers and governments need to work together on this to make it happen. I have changed my opinion about this over the last 16 years, so maybe it is time that you did the same.