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Tuesday 13th November 2012 | 14:50
Ann Coffey press release
Ann Coffey MP will call for Sex and Relationship Education to be made compulsory in schools after a Yougov poll revealed that a third of all 16 to 18 year old girls have experienced “groping” or unwanted sexual touching in schools.
Ms Coffey, who is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children, will be speaking in an important debate this afternoon (Tuesday) in the House of Commons on child sexual exploitation.
Ms Coffey, MP for Stockport, will tell MPs that the best protection for children is knowledge and that is why she supports compulsory Sex and Relationship Education to help address harmful attitudes and abusive behaviour.
She believes that schools have a critical role to play in keeping children safe by talking to them about issues such as sexual consent; what sexual coercion and exploitation is and how to shape healthy relationships and respect for each other as well as alerting children to signs of when they are being sexually groomed.
“The focus needs to be on both boys and girls. Boys need to be supported to form positive and respectful attitudes to girls.They need to understand that abuse can have a long-lasting impact, not just in terms of physical and emotional harm but also damage to girls’ education and future career prospects.”
She said that one of the problems was boys accessing adult web sites which gave them a distorted attitude about what is appropriate in terms of their relationships with girls.
Currently it is compulsory for primary and secondary schools to teach the biological aspects of sex education but the broader subject of sex and relationship education is not compulsory.
Ms Coffey said that Sex and Relationship Education in schools would give more children the confidence to speak out and reject inappropriate relationships. This is important in relation to grooming by older men for sexual exploitation but also to reject sexually coercive relationships by their peers.
Ms Coffey said she was delighted that Stockport is already highlighting the issue in local schools.
Workshops - funded by Stockport Council and Comic Relief - on sexual bullying and unhealthy relationships are being delivered in all local secondary schools by Stockport Without Abuse, the former Stockport Women’s Aid group.
The workshops are now being extended to Year 6 pupils in primary schools in the borough.
And a new project will start at the end of this month, which involves training young people to become “Peer Educators” to raise awareness of sexual harassment in the classroom. This project involves Stockport’s Council’s Safeguarding Unit, the Brinnington Education Achievement Partnership and Stockport Without Abuse.
Earlier this year, after Ms Coffey held a parliamentary debate to highlight the dangers of “sexting,” she was invited to see a film produced by two pupils at Harrytown High School. It was based on real life situations and showed the consequences of uploading or texting indecent images.
On the wider issue of sexual abuse, she revealed that in Greater Manchester alone we currently have more than 50 police officers dedicated solely to working full time on child sexual grooming investigations; we have 72 more dedicated to rape investigations, including child rape and 60 more on “inter-familial” abuse, which includes sexual offences against children.
Detectives are investigating three more major alleged incidents involving young female victims after doubling the number of officers investigating claims of abuse. It brings the total number of recently completed or on-going investigations into the abuse of teenage girls to six.
Nine more men from Rochdale are due to appear in court in the coming weeks followed the conviction of nine others in May and there is a trial due to start at Manchester Crown Court in January involving a similar investigation which involves girls from my constituency of Stockport.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Greater Manchester Police for their dedication in bringing to justice the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes. I also want to point out to the Home Office that these investigations take a lot of resources and more resources will be needed in the future if we are serious about tackling child sexual exploitation,” she said.