PSHE Association welcomes cross party motion for compulsory PSHE to tackle violence against women and girls

We are encouraged by such strong cross-party support for yesterday's parliamentary motion to make personal, social, health and economic (PSHE)education a requirement in schools to help prevent violence and abuse towards women and girls. The debate was organised to coincide with a day of action for One Billion Rising, an international campaign to help raise awareness and tackle such abuse.

The debate was introduced by Fiona Mactaggart (Labour) who said it was “unsafe” not to guarantee excellent sex and relationships education in schools, citing NSPCC research that a third of girls aged 13 to 17 in relationships had experienced physical or sexual violence. She added that “good quality PSHE teaching not only helps to raise young people’s awareness of abuse, but supports those who experience practical strategies to stop it” and that it “challenges prevailing negative attitudes towards women and girls”.

Conservative MP Claire Perry outlined steps the Government had made to tackle related issues such a female genital mutilation (FGM) and online abuse, but added that education, of both children and their parents, was also needed.

Labour MP Ann Coffey agreed that it was good to see support from all sides of the house and that compulsory “sex and relationship education would give children and young people the confidence to reject inappropriate relationships".

Heather Wheeler (Conservative) spoke about forced child marriage while Karl Turner (Labour) and Michael Ellis (Conservative) echoed Claire Perry’s concerns about practices such as FGM.  Mr Turner added that both young men and women need education to help them develop “positive and equal relationships with their peers”. Jane Ellison (Conservative) supported the motion and advocated a multi-agency approach which resulted in a “massive cultural education” about FGM and related issues.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative) said that it was crucial that the “normalisation of sexualisation and violence towards women” was tackled through education, including peer education, and Mary McLeod (Conservative) reminded members that the problem was both international and “on our doorstep”. She urged a “zero tolerance approach” and asked what Ofsted could do to monitor school provision on this issue.

George Freeman (Conservative) said that he was inspired by cross-party agreement and that it reflected that huge public interest in tackling these issues.

Caroline Lucas (Green Party) said that it was not sufficient for PSHE education to be a voluntary option for schools and that there was a need for statutory status to promote equality, respect and tackle all forms of violence against women, including teenage relationship abuse, forced marriage, FGM and sexual exploitation.

Gavin Shuker (Labour) said that children needed the "knowledge and resources" to help them avoid systematic grooming & child exploitation and that the vulnerability of those who witness violence against women and girls “extends into adulthood".

Iain McKenzie (Labour) spoke of the necessity for education in schools to help stop the “vicious cycle of violence” while Stella Creasy, winding up the debate for the opposition, spoke of the urgent need for teaching about consent and respect, stating that sex and relationships education was too important to be left to chance.

Responding for the Government, Home Office Minister Mark Harper spoke about their relaunched “This is Abuse” campaign and how seriously members from both sides of the house took these issues, adding how good that sex and relationships education with PSHE was “essential”.

The PSHE Association welcomes the agreement for the motion and that so many MPs of various political parties considered the issues discussed to be of such importance. We will continue to make the case for high quality PSHE education for every pupil.



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