- The House of Lords and Michael Gove
Update sexual education to include consent and the influence of technology, and make it part of the mandatory national curriculum.
On the 28th of January the House of Lords voted NO to mandatory PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) in state-funded schools. We are baffled as to how, despite the Department of Education having recognised the need to work together with experts and devise teaching materials that are relevant to our modern age, these still won’t be a mandatory part of the national curriculum. The failure to do so and The House of Lords’ outright rejection send the message that the government is not willing to take responsibility for the sexual and relationship education of our children.
In our modern society, various forms of media expose children at a much earlier age to messages about sexuality and relationships. Therefore we strongly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure our young people, of whatever gender, are provided with the information they require to deal with the issues they are facing.
One of the most relevant organisations, The Girl Guides, has found that 70% of girls aged 13 to 21 experience sexual harassment at school; 47% are unhappy with their looks, and 87% of girls aged 11 to 21 think women are judged more for their looks than ability. 96% of sexually objectifying images in advertising are of women, and sexual and gendered violence of any and all forms are reported by high numbers of girls.
Of course it is not only young girls who are affected. Young men and boys are being bombarded with images and messages that certain characteristics are required to be a man: competitiveness, masculinity, strength, control and suppression of outward emotions. These messages may have a direct effect on the rise of violence within relationships, and keep young boys who face sexual violence or homophobic bullying silenced, and their cases unreported. Boys are often judged by their peers on their sexual conquests, with many suffering from their inability to live up to the perceived image of the ‘ideal man’. The Children’s Commissioner’s report illustrates this well: boys report “the pressure to ‘act tough and big’ which required constant vigilance and willingness to conform to peer norm”, and collect “‘man points’: the ‘ratings’ between boys that indicated their status within peer groups”. Gender stereotypes revolve around the heterosexual norm, which in turn has a particularly harmful effect on LGBT youth: according to Stonewall “7 in 10 say it affects their school work” and “half have skipped school because of it”.
Expertly challenging narratives that create and reinforce harassment and other forms of gendered and sexual violence, objectification, and gendered stereotyping is something our government should take the lead in. Only with education on issues such as meaningful consent, online safety, pornography and unrealistic images of sexual relationships can we equip our young people with the tools required to enable them to form confident, healthy relationships. This will lead to a safer, more equal society, founded on mutual respect for one another and our differences.
Teaching the young about healthy attitudes, sexuality and gender, boundaries, the importance of consent and the ways the media and the internet can negatively influence them should not be optional – every young boy and girl has the right to have the best education: one devised by experts and teachers. NO ONE should be left behind.
Upon hearing the decision of the House of Lords many were in uproar, feeling betrayed, disregarded, and deeply concerned about the future. We call on you to reconsider and to empathise with the experiences and needs of the current generation of youngsters. There is a cry for change, and mounting evidence that it is needed. That’s why we’re calling for the government to recognise the importance of mandatory sexual and relationship education, and that for the benefit of every child and teenager it needs to be put on the national curriculum.
On March the 8th we call for a nationwide protest to highlight the importance of this issue, and how strongly we feel that you made the wrong decision. It is imperative that this be addressed.
Find us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1462912300589220/ or add your voice on twitter using the hashtag #YESmatters
- The House of Lords and Michael Gove
update sexual education to include consent and the influence of technology, and make it part of the compulsory national curriculum.
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