The Local Government Association has called for compulsory sex and relationships education (SRE) in secondary academies and free schools, in light of the number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) diagnoses “rocketing once young people leave school”.
The representative body for more than 370 council in England and Wales says age-appropriate SRE needs to be an essential part of all secondary schoolchildren’s curriculum, with parents given the choice of opting their child out.
They argue that without this, youngsters are not being prepared for adulthood, and as a result are being diagnosed with a “worryingly high number of sexually transmitted infections”.
The LGA cites statistics that suggest there were 141,060 new diagnoses for 20-24-year-olds in 2015, compared with 78,066 for those aged 15 to 19.
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said:
The lack of compulsory sex and relationship education in academies and free schools is storing up problems for later on in life, creating a ticking sexual health time bomb, as we are seeing in those who have recently left school.
The shockingly high numbers of STI diagnoses in teenagers and young adults, particularly in the immediate post-school generation, is of huge concern to councils.
We believe that making sex and relationship education compulsory in all secondary schools, not just council-maintained ones, could make a real difference in reversing this trend, by preparing pupils for adulthood and enabling them to better take care of themselves and future partners.
The focus needs to be on arming them with the knowledge they need to tackle what lies ahead. Life as a teenager is complicated enough.
Last year, five parliamentary select committees wrote to Education Secretary Justine Greening about the “deafening” demand for compulsory SRE and personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE).
A spokesman for the Department for Education told the BBC:
High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life.
It is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and, as the Education Secretary said recently, we are looking at options to ensure all children have access to high-quality teaching in these subjects.
We will update the House during the passage of the Children and Social Work Bill.