Academies Bill [HL] — Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 7th July 2010.

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Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour 5:30 pm, 7th July 2010

My Lords, I want to comment on this only briefly because much of what I wanted to say about the importance of personal, social, health and economic education has already been made clear by my noble friends Lady Massey and Lady Gould, as well as by the other contributors. But I would say gently to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that if we pass this amendment, all the proposals of the previous Government, with whom I was associated, can be implemented, certainly in academies. I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that the consistency that she thinks there is in the quality of PSHE education is something I would question. The reason that I began the review of sexual and relationship education in our schools was as a result of the Youth Parliament carrying out a survey to which it received an unprecedented 20,000 responses. The vast majority said that the quality of sex and relationship education they received in school was inadequate.

I am not referring to the Clause 28 part of the funding agreement which says that there should be,

"sex and relationship education to ensure that children [of the academy] are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children".

That may be a part of it, but it is an incredibly partial interpretation of the importance of sex and relationship education. If we are going to tackle early teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, good and consistent PSHE in all our schools is crucial so that we can support parents and those children who are not getting that sort of education at home.

At the instigation of my right honourable friend Ed Balls, I co-chaired a review with the Youth Parliament and the principal of Newcastle College, which included representatives of all the faith groups in this country and health organisations, including sexual health organisations. Remarkably, we achieved a consensus about how we should go forward-which is a great tribute to the various representatives-in the most sensitive area of PSHE: sexual relationship education. I received a standing ovation in the middle of a speech-the only time it has happened to me-and people were crying when I announced that we would make it compulsory to have sexual relationship education in all schools. The people who teach the subject of association understand its vital importance and it was sad that it was lost in the wash-up prior to the election. I hope that we can make progress by passing the amendment today.