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Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (Statutory Requirement) Bill

Volume 619: debated on Friday 20 January 2017

Second Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am delighted to have the opportunity at least to start speaking in support of my Bill to give children an entitlement to personal, social, health and economic education, including sex and relationship education. Although I completely support the Bill that preceded mine, there is an irony that has not gone unnoticed: Members have spent many hours debating a wholly uncontroversial Bill, while my Bill is about tackling discrimination and bullying around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. It is a great shame that there is not more time to debate it.

My Bill has strong cross-party support from across the House from Members who have long shown commitment to and concern about the issue, including the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion); I pay tribute to both for their ongoing cross-party work on this issue. The Bill has such strong cross-party support because people are calling for it from all quarters. It is backed by 87% of parents, 88% of teachers and 85% of business leaders. YouGov and the PSHE Association found that 90% of parents believe that schools should teach pupils about mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Support also comes from two royal societies, five Select Committee Chairs—three of whom, I note, are Conservatives—five teaching unions, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Public Health England, the Children’s Commissioner, the chief medical officer, the national police lead for preventing child sexual exploitation, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Barnardo’s, Stonewall, the End Violence against Women Coalition, Girlguiding, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and many, many more.

There is absolutely no way I am giving way to Government Members, who have spent so many hours filibustering a perfectly serious Bill. [Interruption.] There is no way I am going to give way.

To expand on the last example, I should say that the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners tells us that statutory status is needed because police and crime commissioners across the country—[Interruption.]

Hon. Members will recall the freedom of information requests to the police made by the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) last year. They showed a 1,200% increase in sexting among under-16s—sharing explicit images or texts—and an increasing number using the dating app Tinder. It is clear that children are being pushed into adult territory well before they are ready.

Some of the most powerful calls for action come from the young people themselves. A Terrence Higgins Trust report, which involved a survey of 900 young people aged 16 to 24, found that SRE is inadequate or absent from many schools. Some 99% of the young people surveyed thought that SRE should be mandatory in all schools and more than 60% received SRE just once a year or less. Three quarters were not taught about consent and half the young people surveyed rated the SRE that they received in school as either poor or terrible.

However, we should take heart from young campaigners for statutory PSHE because they are doing excellent work. As well as having tremendous support from groups such as Girlguiding, this year I have also had the privilege of forming links with an exciting group in my Brighton, Pavilion constituency called PSHE Matters. It is made up of students from the Dorothy Stringer School in Brighton who have got together under their own steam to campaign actively for PSHE to be mandatory. They recognise the value of the proactive PSHE provision at their school, and they want to ensure that all students across the country have access to similar high-quality teaching. Their work on PSHE is a testament to the success of the subject.

The students’ call to action comes in a context where one third of young people aged between 11 and 14 have watched online porn on a tablet or mobile phone, and half of 11 to 14-year-olds who had viewed pornography said it had affected their relationships. SRE is desperately needed to offset these messages with age-appropriate information about consent and healthy relationships.

Members will be well aware—

The Deputy Speaker interrupted the debate (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 24th March.