Introduce statutory, age-appropriate Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in schools that is LGBTI inclusive
Schools in England are not required to teach young people any form of comprehensive sex and relationship education (SRE). The majority of the SRE also fails to cover issues surrounding consent, sexual violence, porn and the internet, and unhealthy relationships. Crucially, there is also no requirement to educate about LGBTI relationships. As a result, millions of young people are left without the essential knowledge they need to make informed and responsible decisions when it comes to sex and relationships. Earlier this year an open letter was sent to David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg and signed by 28 LGBTI individuals, charities, allies and organisations calling on them to commit to making comprehensive and LGBTI inclusive Sex and Relationship Education statutory in all English schools.
THE OPEN LETTER:
Each year month millions of young people go to school – but because of inadequate sex and relationships education (SRE) we as a society will fail to provide them with the essential knowledge and life skills they need to make informed and responsible decisions in regard to their sexual health. This is especially true for LGBTI young people.
To address this, pupils, health experts, and we the undersigned, are supporting the 'SRE, it's my right campaign', calling on all political parties to commit to make age-appropriate SRE a statutory requirement for all schools by including it in their manifestoes.
Ofsted describes SRE in English schools as ‘not yet good enough’ – not surprising when teachers are not trained to deliver it and only a handful of biological facts are actually required in the curriculum. Sexual relationships, sexual health, and basic information on the sexual parts of the body can be neglected, even though in the wider world children are exposed to sexual content at an ever earlier age. The result? They get their information elsewhere, often from inappropriate, inadequate sources, or get no information at all. This leaves them ill-prepared to make safer, fulfilling choices and resist sexual pressure and bullying.
If SRE is sub-standard for most young people, LGBTI young people's needs are often ignored completely. 85% of gay and bisexual men tell us they received no information about same-sex relationships in school. And for 14-19 year-old gay and bisexual men, pornography is the most popular source of information on how to have enjoyable sex, and the second most popular source on sexual relationships and attraction.
Lesbian and bisexual women typically receive even less SRE than men – a recent survey of lesbian and bisexual women in their 20s revealed that not a single one of them had received any information about STI transmission or safer sex between women whilst at school. Without trustworthy education to help them sort fantasy from reality this could mean poor understanding of safer sex and sexual relationships.
In addition, 89% of LGBTI young people report learning nothing about bisexuality issues and 94% report learning nothing about transgender issues,meaning that transphobic and biphobic discrimination and bullying are rife in many schools.
The consequences are stark. LGBTI young people are at greater risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. These can last into later life and can have a serious impact on sexual health, and on drink and drug use. Young people are being exposed to sexual situations without the support and basic sexual health information that the education system should be providing. One in three gay men diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were in their teens or early twenties.
We are all working for and committed to the well-being of the LGBTI community. We call on all political parties to commit to age-appropriate SRE which includes content on same-sex relationships. This should be provided in every school, for every young person, whether LGBTI or heterosexual.
Equality and respect in adult life has to begin with equality and respect in the classroom.
Petition organised by Cliff Joannou at QX magazine and Claudia Carvell at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation.
Dr Christian Jessen
Lord Norman Fowler
Cliff Joannou, QX magazine
Susie Parsons, National AIDS Trust
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Terrence Higgins Trust
Tris Reid-Smith, GayStarNews
Andrew Fraser, Attitude magazine
Elly Barnes, Educate and Celebrate
Rob Cookson, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation
Jane Czyzselska, DIVA magazine & BACP registered counsellor
Darren Scott, GT magazine
Benjamin Cohen, Pink News
Tom Doyle, Yorkshire MESMAC
Suran Dickson, Diversity Role Models
Mark Santos, Positive East
Dr Greg Ussher, Metro Charity
Lukasz Konieczka, Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre
Trevor Martin, Gaydar
Nik Noone, GALOP
Jay Stewart, Gendered Intelligence
Simon Topham, Millivres Prowler Group
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall
Simon Blake OBE, Brook
Stephen Coote, Gay Business Association
Tom Guy, Student Pride
Jess Wood MBE, Allsorts Youth Project
Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick, LGBT History Month
Ellen Adams, Sexpression UK