Ministers are looking into making sex and relationships education compulsory in all schools, in a move that would see pupils learning about online pornography, sexting and the issue of sexual consent.
Under plans being considered by the government, sex and relationships will be taught to all students amid growing concerns that sexting and sexual bullying is ‘endemic’ in England’s schools.
Sources close to education secretary Justine Greening said she is looking not just at making the subject compulsory, but at the quality and relevance of what it being taught in schools.
Sex and relationships
Ms Greening is understood to be primarily concerned that the current sex education guidance used by teachers was produced in 2000, long before many of the issues such as sexting and ready access to online porn on smartphones became prevalent.
“Justine is clear that this is something that has to be looked at. It is not just a question of making it mandatory but also of what we should be teaching, including issues such as sexting and domestic violence,” a government source told The Sunday Times.
Currently free schools and academies, which make up more than 60 per cent of all secondary schools, are not required to teach sex education or personal, social, health and economic education.
Parents are also free to demand their children are removed from such lessons.
But the Department for Education is facing mounting pressure to take action on the matter. Last month, the chairs of five parliamentary select committees wrote to Ms Greening demanding that sex education be made a statutory subject.
A parliamentary report last month found that sexual harassment was “part of everyday life” in schools.
The news comes as MPs consider amendments to the Children and Social Care Bill, which is making its way through Parliament.
Speaking in the House this month, children’s minister Edward Timpson said the issue of sex education was a ‘priority for the secretary of state’.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “High-quality education on sex and relationships is a vital part of preparing young people for success in adult life – helping them make informed choices, stay safe and learn to respect themselves and others… we are actively looking at options to ensure that all children have access to high-quality teaching of these subjects.”