Caroline Lucas will today propose legislation which would make the teaching of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education mandatory in all schools.
Currently, although its importance is acknowledged in the curriculum, it is non-statutory giving it a lower profile than other subjects.
In contrast, the social importance of teaching children about appropriate sexual relationships has never been higher up the political agenda, with recent child sexual exploitation scandals and the Government’s inquiry into child sex abuse now underway.
Speaking with PoliticsHome, the Brighton MP says the case is clear. “Nobody would suggest at all that simply the provision of PSHE would have prevented some of those scandals from happening, but at least it would have equipped kids with more tools to be able to withstand it,” she says.
Why statutory status for PSHE education is so important
“Perhaps it might also have given them more understanding on what is ‘normal,’ in a sense, although that is quite a strange word to use; what is quite right to say ‘no’ to.
“For some young people depending on what their home lives are like they might not have had, what many of would think of as, a very basic sense of your right to say ‘no’. Sometimes that just hasn’t been taught. So, to have a space where that can be explored is made even more important in the context of the child sex scandals.”
Momentum began to build on the issue during the last parliament, and in February this year the Education Committee recommended that PSHE education be given statutory status, with the then Chairman saying that there was “overwhelming demand for statutory sex and relationships education - from teachers, parents and young people themselves.”
A Government response to the report was due on 26 June, but has been delayed by the Education Secretary.
Lucas sees the move as encouraging and is positive about Nicky Morgan’s approach to the issue generally.
She says: “I have spoken to her in the past and I know that she is very committed to the principle of PSHE education…
“Of course we can interpret that [the Government’s delayed response] in many different ways but one way of reading that might just be that they are thinking about this much more seriously. And as I say the indications that I have had from Nicky Morgan is that she is personally sympathetic to the idea. So, now seems a really important time to be pushing that further forward.”
The Green Party MP contrasts this with the stance of Morgan’s predecessor, saying that under Michael Gove there was a “narrowing of the curriculum onto very core academic subjects.
“And that has come at exactly the same time, ironically, as there has been more and more concern about the fact that we are not giving young people all of the skills that they actually need to deal with this very fast changing world.
“So, I think it is to do with a really unfortunate coincidence that at one point we have got recognition that this is really important and at the same time we have got a Government that has become more and more narrowly focussed on a smaller number of core issues.”
Ms Lucas will introduce the Ten Minute Rule Bill this afternoon after Prime Minister’s Questions.