Less than a third of teaching staff believe that their schools will be ready to deliver relationships and sex education when it becomes statutory in 2019.
A survey of 590 teachers and heads, conducted by the NEU teaching union, reveals that just 29 per cent think their school will be ready to deliver the new curriculum. The remainder were either unconfident or unsure.
The news comes as a Tes investigation uncovers fears that statutory sex education – to be introduced in all schools from September 2019 – is being set up for failure before it even begins.
The law introducing statutory sex education was passed last April, when Justine Greening was education secretary.
But Ms Greening’s first appearance in the House of Commons after being replaced as education secretary was to press the government to work with Sarah Champion, former shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, and Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities select committee. She called on her successor to ensure that there was cross-party support for any sex-education guidance published by her successor.
The full debate can be viewed here
The former education secretary's intervention has only heightened the concerns of campaigners about what the new sex education curriculum will amount to.
“Justine Greening’s appearance in Parliament – that’s what started to spook me,” Ms Champion, one of Parliament’s most vocal advocates for sex education, said. “If she’s nervous, we’re nervous.
“My concern is that, rather than looking at things like online abuse, sex education will get watered down to British values and tolerance.”
Others have expressed concern that the resources have not been put in place to ensure the effective delivery of statutory sex education.
Of the 590 primary and secondary teachers surveyed by the NEU, only 10 per cent said that relationships and sex education was of good quality at their schools.
And, asked whether personal, social, health and economics (PSHE) education – traditionally the vehicle for sex education – was delivered by teachers who had been appropriately trained, 71 per cent of NEU respondents said that this was true only sometimes, rarely or not at all.
Campaigners for the subject are concerned that no funding has been allocated to remedy this.
'Where's the funding?'
The PSHE Association runs courses training teachers to deliver its subject – including sex education – but its trained teachers are in only 12-14 per cent of schools. The cost of three days’ full training with the association is £735.
In addition, the association estimates that, in order to deliver statutory sex education through PSHE, every school would require an appropriately trained PSHE lead. All teachers involved in delivering PSHE would also need training.
In addition to training costs, a PSHE subject lead would accrue teaching and learning responsibility points amounting to a salary increase of between £2,500 and £6,000.
“Where’s the money going to come from?” said Lucy Emmerson, national coordinator of the sex-education campaign group, the Sex Education Forum. “At the moment, there’s no money seen in any of this. It appears to be on schools to resource this. I think schools are going to struggle.”
M Champion agrees. “Where’s the funding?” the Labour MP said. “That has to be a commitment by the government. It’s a big responsibility for teachers to take on, and it would be fundamentally unfair for the government not to provide resources to back it up.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We want to help all schools deliver a high-quality education that ensures pupils are equipped for life in modern Britain. That is why last year the government passed legislation to make relationships education compulsory in all primary schools and relationships and sex education compulsory in all secondary schools.
"We are also considering whether to make PSHE compulsory in all schools. We are working with experts, teachers and are running a public call for evidence to help us design a high quality Relationship and Sex education curriculum.
"We are clear that this needs to involve determining what support schools will need to deliver these subjects well. We will publish draft proposals for consultation in due course.”
This is an edited article from the 9 February edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here