Nottingham City Council has produced a charter on sex education – and is calling on all schools to sign up.
The authority’s Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) Charter outlines the requirements for lifelong-learning about the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up and sexual health. It calls for age-appropriate SRE for children at primary age right through to teenagers.
The aim of SRE is to give children and young people the skills they need to build positive and healthy relationships and stay safe, as well as offer factual information about the body, reproduction, sex and sexual health, and online safety.
Some elements of SRE are covered within the science curriculum but outside of this, schools can choose what to deliver based on government guidance.
The Council’s new charter encourages schools to view SRE as a key element of their work to safeguard pupils. There are examples of good practice already in Nottingham but provision currently varies from school to school.
The Charter asks for three things:
1. Sign up and complete an audit of current SRE provision
2. Create an action plan and develop existing SRE
3. Evaluate, assess and monitor progress – share good practice with others
Evidence suggests that young people who have had good SRE are more likely to wait before having sex for the first time and use contraception when they do. They are less likely to have sex before the age of 16 or be diagnosed with a sexually-transmitted infection.
SRE has been linked to a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates, which in Nottingham have fallen almost 50 per cent since 1998.
A lack of appropriate SRE may make youngsters more vulnerable to exploitation and inappropriate sexual behaviours because they have not developed the knowledge of what is right and wrong, or the confidence to seek help.
Specialist officers at the Council will be on hand to support schools with developing their policies and curriculum, while parents and carers will be encouraged to reinforce the messages at home.
Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Schools at Nottingham City Council, said: “Sex and Relationships Education is really important because it teaches children and young people about relationships, sex and sexual health in an age-appropriate way.
“Research by the Council’s public health specialists has found that the quality of SRE varies from school to school across the city. While there is some good practice, there are many schools where the quality, and quantity, needs to improve. Youngsters need to have the knowledge to keep themselves healthy and safe as they move into adulthood.
“We are introducing the charter to help schools improve the education they provide to pupils. It will set out how we would expect them to share this crucial topic with young people. We are committed to enabling youngsters to make safe, sensible and healthy choices, both now and in the future.”