The Terrence Higgins Trust has released a new report on the unfortunate state of Sex and Relationships Education in the United Kingdom, and according to the findings, Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in the UK is infrequent, low quality, and rarely LGBT+ inclusive.
Entitled “Shh… No Talking.”, the report surveyed 914 youths aged 16-24 via an online questionnaire that was live for seven weeks this February. 75% had never been taught about consent, 95% had not learned about LGBT+ sex and relationships, 89% were not taught about sexual pleasure, and 97% were not taught anything about gender identity.
Ian Green, CEO of the trust, said:
It is wholly unfit to prepare them for the realities of sex and relationships in 2016.
Three out of five young people either didn’t remember having HIV education or didn’t receive it.
One in seven had not received any SRE. Most students had received it just once a year or even less.
Half rated their SRE as either “poor” or “terrible,” according to Karen McVeigh of the Guardian. 10% rated it “excellent,” and 2% rated it “good.” 99% felt that SRE should be mandatory in schools.
Proponents of SRE believe that increasing the quality and availability of the subject would help to prevent issues like unhealthy and abusive relationships, homophobia, bullying, low self-esteem, and sexual and gender identity confusion, along with more traditional goals like STD and pregnancy prevention.
SRE is only mandatory in public secondary schools, meaning that private schools, primary schools, academies, and free schools have no obligation to provide students with it. Mandatory SRE is present in just 40% of schools.
According to Lucy Clarke-Billings of Newsweek, these guidelines were passed in 2000 – before most current students were even born.
99% of the young people surveyed wanted SRE to be taught in all schools, and 97% wanted it to be LGBT+ inclusive.
Green, writing for the Huffington post, quoted one young person who participated in the survey. Lauren Alexandra Young, 18, said:
Inclusive SRE teaches young people not only to be safe but that they are valid. Many young people struggle with their feelings of sexuality and gender and if no one is talking to them about it, or allowing them to discuss it openly, they will internalize their worry and it will grow into something ugly and harmful for the individual.
These statistics match up with Ofsted’s findings as well. In 2013, an Ofsted report found that SRE was inadequate or needed improvement in 40% of the nation’s schools.
According to Lizzie Parry of the Daily Mail, the Terrence Higgins Trust, which published the report, is the UK’s leading HIV and sexual health charity.
It doesn’t seem like the legislation is likely to change any time soon — a measure to include compulsory SRE was blocked in February despite disagreement from experts and from students themselves.