HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust has released the findings of a major new survey of over 900 young people about sex and relationship education provisions in schools.
The report, called ‘Shh… No Talking,’ warns that sex education in its current state leaves young people vulnerable to abuse, bullying, and poor mental and sexual health.
According to the report, three-quarters of young people are not taught about sexual consent, while one in seven said they did not receive any sex and relationship education (SRE) at all.
When SRE is taught, it is usually limited to biological topics like reproduction, body parts and heterosexual sex, with LGBT issues not making it onto the agenda, the report said.
Crucial subjects are often completely overlooked – 89% weren’t taught about sex and pleasure, 97% didn’t learn about gender identity, and nearly a third didn’t remember learning about HIV.
In February, the government refused to make sex and relationship education (SRE) compulsory, much to the dismay of many MPs, campaigners, parents, educators, the Education Select Committee and many young people themselves.
At the moment, SRE is only mandatory in state-maintained secondary schools, which account for 40% of all schools. Academies, primary schools, free schools and private schools are not obliged to teach it.
Ian Green, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said it was “shocking” that Department for Education guidance on SRE had not been updated for 16 years.
“Young people are getting information about sex and relationships in a world before social media existed, before smartphones, before equal marriage or civil partnerships,” he said. “It is wholly unfit to prepare them for the realities of sex and relationships in 2016.”
Read the full findings and find out more about the ‘SRE: End the Silence’ campaign at www.tht.org.uk/endthesilence