Education

Part of Rating and Valuation – in the House of Commons at 7:38 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham 7:38 pm, 20th March 2019

I really welcome these regulations, and I am incredibly proud of the cross-party manner in which we brought them in. I also want to make it very clear that the fact that the charities, survivors, teachers and parents have been lobbying for over 20 years to get to this point should be recognised and celebrated.

The last guidance was in 2000, before the internet and before social media, so this is well overdue. I came to this issue a mere five years ago, and my main driver was preventing child abuse by empowering children to spot inappropriate behaviour. How else is a six-year-old meant to know that the uncle abusing them is acting inappropriately and they have a right to say something about that? Education, not ignorance, is the only way that children will be able to recognise abusive behaviour and know how to seek help.

The scale of this problem is enormous. One in 20 children are sexually abused, one in eight experiences inappropriate sexual behaviour towards them, and one in three has never told an adult. Sexual abuse can happen to any child.

My concern is that, in this vacuum, a generation of children have gone unprotected—a generation who most recently have gone to online pornography, which is a very gendered form of violence, to find out about sex and relationships. The Government’s age verification measure is welcome, but it does not cover social media, and the main place that children, or anyone, access porn on social media is Twitter. Will the Minister liaise with colleagues to see whether that massive gap in protection can be covered?

In the absence of teaching, we have seen the LGBT community, and particularly young people, suffer enormously. Nearly half of LGBT children have been bullied at school. One in five lesbian, gay and bi children and two in five trans children have attempted suicide. That is shocking. I hope the Minister will ensure that that gap is bridged. It concerns me that the guidance says that schools are “expected” to have taught about LGBT relationships by the time children leave school. Can the Minister confirm whether that is a requirement or a recommendation? Will there be sanctions if it is not carried out?

Like others, I have been lobbied about the rights of parents. It is not an either/or situation. We need to recognise that 90% of child abuse is carried out within the extended family or by a family friend. Teachers know their stuff. We need to give them the resources and support to provide this education in a sensitive way. Some 80% of parents want teachers to be properly resourced, so I ask the Minister to focus on why he is allocating £250 per school. Our children deserve better.