NC10: Memorandum submitted by Family Planning Association (fpa)
fpa (Family Planning Association) is the UK's leading sexual health charity, working to enable people in the UK to enjoy their sexual health free from exploitation, oppression or physical or emotional harm. As well as providing a national information service on sexual health issues, we run a number of community based sex and relationships education programmes for both young people and parents, and produce a range of information booklets for use in sex and relationships education. As a result, we are very interested in your Select Committee's inquiry investigating the National Curriculum.
fpa believes that the National Curriculum should ensure that all young people receive the knowledge and skills to prepare them for life and make a successful transition to adulthood. We hope that the Committee, in its deliberations on the National Curriculum, will consider the current content of the Curriculum and whether subjects which are not currently a statutory part of the Curriculum should be included in the future.
We believe that life skills, delivered through Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE), which includes sex and relationships education (SRE), should be included on the National Curriculum at all Key Stages, as this will help deliver the five outcomes of Every Child Matters. This is a crucial Government objective, which is unfortunately not being implemented as well as it could be because PSHE does not have the same status as other statutory courses.
fpa believes that national direction on educational content is necessary to ensure that all children and young people receive correct and appropriate information as they progress through school. Our specific expertise rests in SRE, which we believe should be both comprehensive and compulsory, but only certain aspects of this subject are currently a statutory part of the curriculum. As a result, SRE is delivered inconsistently across England. Some young people receive excellent SRE, but the majority do not. We believe that making this subject statutory and improving training for teachers and guidance for schools are essential to improve the quality and content of SRE. It is crucial that young people receive accurate information which promotes good sexual health and sexual wellbeing and will help them to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
Young people tell us that the SRE they receive is too little, too late and too biological, and the majority of young people responding to the UK Youth Parliament's 2007 survey on SRE felt it to be inadequate. Although the UK's teenage pregnancy rate is at its lowest in over twenty years, it remains the highest in Western Europe. Members of the Committee will also be aware of the negative impact that having a child at a young age can have on young mothers and fathers, reducing their access to education and future employment possibilities.
Members of the Committee will be aware that the Department for Children, Schools and Families is currently conducting a review of SRE. fpa is participating in the review as a member of the steering group. We firmly believe that providing comprehensive SRE as a statutory part of the National Curriculum would help to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate. As noted above, the broader subject of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) helps to deliver the five outcomes of Every Child Matters, but as a non-statutory subject, these goals are not given adequate curricular time or resources. The objective of the National Curriculum should be to provide children and young people with a broad knowledge and useful information as they grow up, and PSHE will equip young people with the confidence and skills to make this transition to adulthood successfully.
On other issues that the Committee is investigating, fpa believes that teachers and young people should be involved in the future development of the National Curriculum. We know that many teachers who deliver SRE do not feel qualified to do so and there is a need for training and support.
fpa believes that a holistic approach is fundamental to improving the sexual health of young people, and that comprehensive SRE, made a priority by inclusion in the National Curriculum, would be a crucial step in helping to educate and empower young people, and promote good sexual health and wellbeing in the future.
17 March 2008