Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Abortion Rights supports statutory Sex and Relationships Education in Schools

Read the full text of Abortion Rights’ response to the Department for Children Schools and Families curriculum reform consultation on Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education in English schools.

In October 2008 the Government announced its intention to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education – including teaching about sex and relationships – statutory in primary and secondary schools in England, and launched a review to investigate the most effective way of taking this forward.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Quality and Curriculum Authority (QCA) are currently undertaking a public consultation exercise on their plans for PSHE education – giving you the opportunity to comment on these important proposals.

Abortion Rights strongly supports the provision of universal sex and relationships education in schools. We believe it is essential that all young people are able to access accurate, evidence-based information about sexual health and relationship issues, particularly in relation to all pregnancy outcomes: maternity, adoption and abortion.

We urge our supporters to make their support for comprehensive, impartial sex education known to the government, and to support access to clear, non-directional information about pregnancy and abortion services by completing the QCA’s Curriculum reform consultation questionnaire.

Full details of the consultation on curriculum reform can be found on the QCA website. The consultation will close at 5.00pm on Friday 24th July 2009, so if you have not responded already, we would encourage you to please do so today.

We have sent the following response to the Curriculum reform consultation exercise, which supporters are welcome to use to make their own response :

Section 1: We strongly support the proposal to make PSHE a statutory subject and are strongly opposed to parents having the right to withdraw children from Sex and Relationships Education (SRE).

PSHE can be a vital opportunity to provide young people with evidence-based, impartial information on sexual health and relationships, including accurate and unbiased information about options for dealing with unplanned pregnancy. Making PSHE a statutory subject will improve provision and can help ensure more young people are given access to this information by preventing PSHE being treated as a low priority in schools. This information should be available to all young people as it is critical to their health and wellbeing, and we therefore oppose the review recommendation that parents should be able to withdraw children from SRE

We support the proposal for schools to make clear to parents that they have a responsibility to ensure their child receives SRE through alternative means. However this should not be considered a substitute for unbiased, evidence-based SRE in schools. Access to unbiased information about all choices for young people experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, including details of non-directive support services, is vital to enable young people to make informed choices, and to understand choices made by others.

Section 2: We believe that the current non-statutory programmes of study, which do not specify that young people should receive information about all options for dealing with unplanned pregnancy, should be amended to include this information. Young people are entitled to receive accurate information about all options, including parenting, adoption and abortion.

Many schools continue to only discuss abortion in religious education where it is posed as an abstract moral debate. PSHE should provide an opportunity for young people to discuss abortion in the context of sexual health and making real-life choices, and receive practical information about sources of non-directive professional support on preventing pregnancy and making decisions about unplanned pregnancy.

At KS3 and KS4 provision of accurate information about abortion to counteract misinformation from the media and peers is vital. At KS4 opportunities to discuss the causes and consequences of unplanned pregnancy, as well as education on pregnancy decision-making is appropriate and can increase motivation to use contraception.

We welcome the proposal to issue national guidance on inviting external speakers to discuss these issues, and believe this guidance should seek to ensure that information provided by speakers, particularly on issues such as sexual health and abortion, is non-directive, evidence-based and accurate.