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PCC Vera Baird welcomes ‘long overdue’ compulsory sex education in schools

19th December 2016

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC, has welcomed ‘long-overdue’ plans for sex education and relationships education (SRE) to be made compulsory in all schools.

Ms Baird has campaigned on the matter for years, calling on the government to make age-appropriate SRE compulsory in order to help tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) by educating young people on the illegality of abuse and instilling them with the confidence to report it.

Recently, the government commissioned the Women and Equalities Committee to conduct a review of Sexual Harassment & Sexual Violence in Schools and the guidance and statutory measures currently in place to tackle it.

This review found that almost a third of girls aged 16-18 said that they had been groped at school. Three fifths of young women had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Following this, the committee called on the government to make SRE compulsory in schools, however, it was revealed last month that the government chose to ignore these recommendations.

This led to the chairmen and chair women of five parliamentary select committees writing to education secretary Justine Greening calling for a review of this decision.

The letter, backed by Ms Baird, highlighted that this was a key safeguarding issue, which needed to be addressed urgently.

The government now appears to be changing its stance as yesterday’s announcement revealed the issue was now being made a priority matter for the education department. It was also confirmed that new plans could be included in amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill, which could see changes to what is taught at present.

Ms Baird, who is also Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: “For a long time I have said that SRE is vital for the safety and well-being of every child in the country. The government has been missing an obvious opportunity to protect children for a long time.

“These plans are a very welcome step in the right direction, and we need to ensure they are well implemented, everywhere, and cover the full spectrum of issues including consent, sexual health and the difference between acceptable and abusive behaviour.

“Unfortunately sexting and sexual bullying have been on the rise for some time now and we need clear messages for young people – what is acceptable and what is not. This is about helping them make informed choices and learning to respect themselves as well as others. Educating young people about these issues must no longer be left to chance or to the individual discretion of school governors – it’s every child’s right.”