News Digest 6 -10 March

This week the Children and Social Work Bill was discussed in the House of Commons. Plan International published research that young people are far more likely to identify as feminists than their parents. To mark International Women’s Day, Justine Greening and Baroness Shields discussed gender equality.

Children and Social Work Bill debated in the Commons
On March 7th, the newly tabled amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill concerning ‘relationships education (RE)’ ‘relationships and sex education (RSE) and PSHE education were debated and moved in the House of Commons.

The New Clauses 15 and 16 had been tabled by the Government last week and related to Justine Greening’s announcement on 1st March that she intends to legislate for statutory ‘relationships education’ at primary level and ‘relationships and sex education’ at secondary level in all schools. She also cleared the way for PSHE education in its entirety to be statutory pending result of an upcoming consultation.

Various MPs questioned the minister about the age-appropriateness of the content of both RE and RSE. Timpson said that “there is scope within these measures for schools to tailor their response to this subject matter in a way that best meets the needs of their pupils. There is already some excellent material available from the likes of the PSHE Association which sets out how they can do that in an age-appropriate way and in a way that meets the challenges that we know the modern world throws at children at an ever more tender age.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner welcomed the proposed amendments, but asked what the Government intends to do to support LGBT young people and whether the Government will consult expert organisations. Maria Miller informed the house that she had withdrawn her own amendment NC5, because she felt that NC15 and NC16 achieve what she wanted.  Finally, MPs voted in favour of adding both clauses to the bill.

Young people more like to be feminist
Plan International has published research that shows that young people are twice as likely to consider themselves feminist than their parents.  In spite of this, 1 in 10 people still don’t believe in gender equality.

The charity's chief executive Tanya Barron said: "This International Women's Day, the British public has shown itself to be pretty forward thinking on gender equality – though we would encourage the roughly one in ten who don't believe in equality to think again!

International Women’s Day
To mark International Women’s Day, Justine Greening wrote an opinion piece in which she says that Britain must be bold if it wants to deliver real change for women around the world. She proceeded by outlining gender pay gap reporting requirements that could help reduce the gender pay gap.

Baroness Shields addressed the occasion in the House of Lords by expressing her belief that technology is vital for achieving effective female empowerment because it enables new kinds of political and economic participation. To allow children and young people to use technology safely and help them recognise abuse, she said that “we are also using new, technology-led communication to speak directly to young people” and “our acclaimed teenage relationship abuse campaign, Disrespect NoBody, encourages teens to rethink their views on violence, abuse and consent. Young people need information and tools to build healthy, respectful and nurturing relationships. That is why last week, the Government announced a new duty on all schools to provide education on relationships as part of the PSHE curriculum.”

Written questions on PSHE and RSE:

  • Diana Johnson asked whether the RSE teaching guidance will include teaching on transsexuality, same-sex relationships, online safety, cyber bullying, sexting, violence against women and girls, consent and child abuse. Edward Timpson answered that the Government plans to consult stakeholders to set out suitable, age-appropriate content adding that “The Government aims to equip pupils with the knowledge and life skills they need to stay safe and develop healthy, supportive relationships”.
  • Paul Blomfield asked whether the duty to teach RSE will apply to academy schools, faith schools, independent schools and free schools. Edward Timpson answered that all primary schools, including faith schools, will have to provide relationships education and that all secondary schools, including faith schools, will have to provide RSE. This means that the requirements apply to all maintained schools, academies, free schools and independent schools.

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