FORWARD welcomes the statement from Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education, this Monday, 1st February making Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) compulsory in all schools in England.

We have been working in schools for years and have first-hand experience of the difference that quality SRE provision makes to the knowledge, confidence and agency of young people. Young people should never be left without the tools to navigate increasingly difficult social landscapes, including within family, peer groups and online. Without quality SRE pupils are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse including female genital mutilation (FGM). SRE improves students’ ability to seek information, support and services around their health and wellbeing.

Tackling FGM means removing taboos around talking about girls’ bodily integrity, health and rights. SRE allows students to explore these issues safely within schools. The announcement to put SRE on statutory footing, with a view to making full PSHE statutory in the future, is a great step forward for all young people in the UK. In our experience, parents’ right to withdraw their children, and freedom for faith based schools to have discretion on what they teach on SRE, might leave some of the most vulnerable girls unprotected – we look forward to seeing how the government ensures this new amendment works for all young people equally.

FORWARD will be happy to work with the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition, and with the government, to further ensure the most effective and sensitive guidance for the implementation of Sex and Relationship Education nationally.

FORWARD Executive Director with Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, at FORWARD’s February 2017 ‘Tackling FGM in Schools’ Pan-European Conference