Happy birthday to the Sex Education Forum – congratulations and well done for 25 years of service. I was there at the beginning of the Forum and hope we finally succeed to secure SRE for all of our children and young people before I die.
Mum was a family planner who made sure I knew about sex because she was appalled by young people’s lack of knowledge. I arrived in London in 1967, cut 10 inches off my skirt and almost immediately became an informal and untrained peer sex educator. My long career in sex education had begun!
Looking back, there is much to celebrate. We have been successful in getting sex education guidance produced, getting rid of the hateful Section 28, developing resources for primary schools and the care sector, addressing SRE for boys, considering faith and culture issues of SRE and supporting the teenage pregnancy strategy.
Nonetheless in 2012 we are still letting young people down, many lack the knowledge, skills or confidence needed to negotiate safer, mutually respectful and enjoyable relationships. I am horrified at the number of young women who experience violence in their relationships, at the level of homophobic and transgender bullying in our schools and communities and I am disappointed that teenage pregnancy (although reducing) and sexually transmitted infection (including HIV) rates are still unacceptably high.
It makes me furious that we are still arguing for SRE. The last government failed to make SRE statutory while the current government panders to a highly vocal minority who support inequality, abstinence education, independent counselling for women seeking an abortion, and creationism teaching in school.
We know what works in reducing teenage pregnancy and improving sexual health and wellbeing. We have a strong and irrefutable consensus in support of SRE; young people want it, so do their parents, teachers and health professionals.
We have to get active again, get organised and make a noise. So let’s support the Sex Education Forum’s new campaign ‘Sex Ed Matters’, write our own blogs, get on Twitter, write to and visit our MP and contact every head and chair of governors in all schools in our local area.
We cannot sit by and let yet another generation of young people grow up without good quality SRE. I am just going to nag my MP again and put something on Twitter – what are you going to do?
Gill Frances OBE, Sex Education Forum Director 1996-99