Leading MPs have warned Justine Greening of the “consequences” of the government's decision not to make sex and relationships education (SRE) and PSHE compulsory in schools
The warning, from the chairs of five different select committees, comes despite the education secretary saying earlier this month that she would look at how sex and relationships education (SRE), in particular, could be improved in the coming months.
In a letter, signed by three Conservative and two Labour committee chairs, the MPs criticised ministers’ decision not to act on a women and equalities committee report that recommended SRE be made a statutory subject.
Ministers “failed to seize” the opportunity to act on the report, the letter says, and it calls on the government to “engage” with the Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill currently making its way through Parliament.
It is the second time the five committees have raised concerns over sex education, having written to former education secretary Nicky Morgan in January.
'Patchy or inadequate access to PSHE'
The MPs also highlighted Ms Greening’s indication at an education committee hearing earlier in the year that she would look at the issue of making PSHE compulsory.
“We ask you to give serious thought to this proposal and the benefits that would arise from it,” the letter says.
“We also ask you to consider the consequences of failing to act; not only for the quality of education in England, but also for the lifelong consequences which can result from the patchy or inadequate access to PSHE and SRE.”
Earlier this month, Ms Greening said in an interview with The Student Room that she wanted to look at whether SRE should be made mandatory, and also review the quality of what was being taught.
Ms Greening said the core guidelines for SRE were introduced in 2000 so it was necessary to look at whether they were still relevant.
She said: "I am interested in saying, 'What can we do to make sure what schools and what is taught in schools really works for young people today?'
“There is a lot of debate about the SRE and making it mandatory,” she added. “I think we should be looking at the quality of how it is being taught on the ground. How you mandate it and where it might be taught is one thing, but actually making sure it is taught effectively is another.
“What we need to do is have a look, in the round, on how we can do a better job on SRE – and, in particular, bear in mind that it’s 2016 and not 2000.”
The letter was signed by Neil Carmichael, chair of the education committee; Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities committee; Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs committee; Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health committee; and Iain Wright, chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee.