Make gay sex education mandatory in all schools

LGBTI coalition urges education that addresses the needs of LGBTI pupils

London - 17 September 2014



Call for LGBTI-inclusive sex & relationship education to be statutory in all schools

Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) should be made compulsory in all schools – and be required by law to address the needs of LGBTI young people. Currently, it isn’t mandatory and rarely includes LGBTI issues.

The call comes from a coalition of LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex) organisations and campaigners.

They have written an open letter to UK political leaders, stressing that inaction by most schools is failing the health and emotional needs of the younger generation and contributing to poor levels of sexual and mental well-being and to unwanted teenage pregnancies, abortions and HIV.

The coalition includes Conservative Peer Lord Fowler, Dr Christian Jessen, Peter Tatchell, the gay media, and LGBTI and sexual health charities, such as Terrence Higgins Trust, Stonewall, Lesbian & Gay Foundation and National AIDS Trust. See the full list below.

One in three gay men diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were in their teens or early twenties, yet 85% of gay and bisexual men receive no information about same-sex relationships in school.

The open letter was written in support of the Sex Education Forum’s current campaign - ‘It’s My Right’ - which is lobbying for government agreement to guarantee every pupil, in every school, high quality sex and relationship education, as part of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons.

Cliff Joannou, editor of QX magazine, who devised the campaign, said:

“It’s shocking that in the 21st century schools are still not required to give children and teenagers the education they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health and relationships. In addition, omitting LGBTI relationships from any SRE means that too many children and teenagers grow up feeling further alienated by society and seek out alternative answers to basic questions. The education system has a responsibility to prepare children and teenagers for life in the real world. It is currently failing in that duty.”

Kat Smithson, policy and campaigns manager at NAT (National AIDS Trust), the HIV charity that drafted the letter, added:

”One in three 16-24 year olds tell us they don’t know enough to prevent HIV transmission during sex, and at the same time HIV diagnoses amongst young gay men have doubled over the past ten years. Unless we start teaching young people in school about sexual health and about same sex relationships then we will only see these numbers increasing.”

Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said:

“Sexual literacy is just as important as literacy in reading and writing. Education is, after all, supposed to prepare young people for later life. Sex and relationships are a very important part of adulthood. Why, then, are they neglected in so many schools?

“All pupils deserve lessons that empower them to make wise, responsible decisions to ensure their sexual health and happiness and to reduce the incidence of unwanted teenage pregnancies, abortions and HIV.

“This failing is even more acute for LGBTI pupils, whose needs and welfare are widely ignored - leaving many with low self-esteem and without same-sex specific HIV prevention advice. Not surprisingly, HIV rates among young gay and bisexual men are needlessly high and the bullying of pupils who don’t conform to gender stereotypes passes unchallenged in too many schools.”

THE LETTER IN FULL:

This month millions of young people are going back to school – but because of inadequate sex and relationships education (SRE) we as a society will fail to provide them with the essential knowledge and life skills they need to make informed and responsible decisions in regard to their sexual health. This is especially true for LGBTI young people.

To address this, pupils, health experts, and we the undersigned, are supporting the 'SRE, it's my right campaign', calling on all political parties to commit to make age-appropriate SRE a statutory requirement for all schools.

Ofsted describes SRE in English schools as ‘not yet good enough’ – not surprising when teachers are not trained to deliver it and only a handful of biological facts are actually required in the curriculum. Sexual relationships, sexual health, and basic information on the sexual parts of the body can be neglected, even though in the wider world children are exposed to sexual content at an ever earlier age. The result? They get their information elsewhere, often from inappropriate, inadequate sources, or get no information at all. This leaves them ill-prepared to make safer, fulfilling choices and resist sexual pressure and bullying.

If SRE is sub-standard for most young people, LGBTI young people's needs are often ignored completely. 85% of gay and bisexual men tell us they received no information about same-sex relationships in school. And for 14-19 year-old gay and bisexual men, pornography is the most popular source of information on how to have enjoyable sex, and the second most popular source on sexual relationships and attraction. Without trustworthy education to help them sort fantasy from reality this could mean poor understanding of safer sex and sexual relationships.

In addition, 89% of LGBTI young people report learning nothing about bisexuality issues and 94% report learning nothing about transgender issues.

The consequences are stark. LGBTI young people are at greater risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. These can last into later life and can have a serious impact on sexual health, and on drink and drug use. Young people are being exposed to sexual situations without the support and basic sexual health information that the education system should be providing. One in three gay men diagnosed with HIV in 2012 were in their teens or early twenties.

We are all working for and committed to the well-being of the LGBTI community. We call on all political parties to commit to age-appropriate SRE which includes content on same-sex relationships. This should be provided in every school, for every young person, whether LGBTI or heterosexual. Equality and respect in adult life has to begin with equality and respect in the classroom.

SIGNATURES

Peter Tatchell & PeterTatchell Foundation
Dr Christian Jessen
Lord Norman Fowler
Cliff Joannou, QX magazine
Susie Parsons, National AIDS Trust
Dr Rosemary Gillespie, Terrence Higgins Trust
Tris Reid-Smith, GayStarNews
Andrew Fraser, Attitude magazine
Elly Barnes, Educate and Celebrate
Rob Cookson, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation
Jane Czyzselska, DIVA magazine & BACP registered counsellor
Darren Scott, GT magazine
Tom Doyle, Yorkshire MESMAC
Suran Dickson, Diversity Role Models
Paul Fleming, Positive East
Greg Ussher, Metro Charity
Lukasz Konieczka, Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre
Trevor Martin, Gaydar
Nik Noone, GALOP
Jay Stewart, Gendered Intelligence
Simon Topham, Millivres Prowler Group
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall
Benjamin Cohen, Pink News

TAKE ACTION:

Please repost on facebook and tweet using the hashtag #SameSexSRE

If you want to support the campaign on this issue please visit the Sex Education Forum website and lobby your MP: www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/its-my-right

Education in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter. Responsibility for SRE in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland lies with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

For further information and interview requests with any of the above signatories or young LGBTI people for case studies, please contact:

Cliff Joannou
Editor
QX magazine
07956 830037
[email protected]

Suzi Price
Communications Manager
NAT
020 7814 6733
[email protected]

Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790
[email protected]
www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org

NAT
NAT (National AIDS Trust) is dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.

www.nat.org.uk - website
www.lifewithHIV.org – a resource for HIV positive people
www.HIVaware.org.uk – what everyone should know about HIV

QX
QX is the UK’s most popular free gay magazine, reaching more readers in print and online than any other gay publication.

www.qxmagazine.com

ENDS