Schools should be providing all young people with a curriculum that equips them for success in adult life. I believe that appropriate and high quality PSHE, and sex and relationship education (SRE) have a vital role to play in this.
The Government has made clear, through the national curriculum, that all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice to enable children to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to manage their lives, now and in the future. To allow teachers the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE education, it is a non-statutory subject, and there is no specified programme of study. I believe that teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their pupils and do not need additional central prescription.
PSHE is exceptionally important, and Ministers are determined to improve consistency and quality. Although teachers decide what is right for their students, Government guidance outlines that PSHE must equip pupils with a sound understanding of risk and with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions. This can include teaching about consent in relationships to help children stay safe and to avoid inappropriate or harmful experiences. It may also include topics such as bullying, first aid, violence against women, female genital mutilation, mental health, "honour" violence and life skills.
SRE is compulsory in maintained secondary schools, and primary teachers may judge whether to teach it to primary children in later years. SRE must always be appropriate for the children concerned, in view of their age and religious and cultural background. Schools are required to have regard to the Secretary of State's statutory guidance which makes clear that SRE should ensure young people develop positive values and a moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgments and behaviour.
It is important to make sure that our young people have the right information and right advice, and that SRE is fit for the world that children live in today. Starting at an early age so that children can understand relationships with one another, is sensible. However, I agree teaching must remain age-appropriate. I understand that the Secretary of State for Education has committed to looking again at how schools deliver this and is carefully considering all the options.
I am pleased that the Government has agreed to review the provision on PSHE and sex and relationship education, particularly their focus on improving quality and accessibility, and I am in fact working with fellow MPs, such as Maria Miller MP, to ensure this happens.