On Wednesday 20 March, MPs will have the opportunity to approve the Government’s proposals for new Relationships & Sex Education (RSE) lessons.
This marks a significant point in a campaign that we've been leading for the last 30 years. We want every single young person to have access to LGBT-inclusive, age-appropriate and high-quality RSE lessons.
But it’s not a done deal yet and recent media coverage has shown that we need one final push to make this a reality.
Since we started campaigning on RSE, we've been clear that the voices of young people must be central to this. Throughout the decades, generations of school pupils have been let down due to RSE lessons not preparing them for life, not giving them information about how to reduce their risk of HIV and where to access information about sexual health.
This was further highlighted in our 2016 report, Shh... No Talking, which revealed only 5% of lessons were LGBT-inclusive and half of young people said their lessons were either ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’.
In shaping our response to the Government’s draft guidance – which was the first time it has been updated in 20 years – we engaged with groups of young people across England. They stressed that lessons must be comprehensive and cover a range of issues, including consent, pleasure and the different ways to test, treat and prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). All of which are overlooked in current lessons.
We know the impact of poor RSE. Young people accounted for the highest rate of new STI diagnoses in England in 2017, with one young person diagnosed every four minutes. More than seven young people are diagnosed with HIV every week.
The proposed guidance goes some way to fix this situation. It requires all schools to provide information on sexual health, including where to access local services, and accurate information about HIV.
We've also welcomed the confirmation that lessons will be LGBT-inclusive in secondary school RSE lessons but also in primary school Relationships Education lessons.
Over the past few weeks we've been left disappointed at the recent media focus on whether lessons should be LGBT-inclusive and questions whether young people have a right to access information about their sexual health.
We are absolutely clear: there is an equalities requirement for all schools - regardless if they are a religious school - not to discriminate any pupils or groups in wider society based on their sexuality. And we are absolutely clear that every young person has a right to access RSE lessons.
That’s why we, along with our partners, are asking young people and RSE campaigners to contact their MP and urge them to attend this week’s crucial debate in Parliament.
Follow the link below to find your MP and automatically generate an email outlining why the Government’s proposals must not be watered down.
This is so important to ensure that MPs don’t cave into pressure that could put plans for RSE lessons by next September on hold. We cannot wait any longer for compulsory RSE lessons.
For too long young people’s views on the need for proper information on HIV and sexual health have been silenced. Help end this and make your voice heard.