Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Crossbench 5:30 pm, 24th April 2019

My Lords, I also thank the Minister. This is the second time we have interacted today; he was brave enough to go into the lion’s den of the weekly Cross-Bench meeting earlier this afternoon, and received in general a very positive reaction. It is also a pleasure to listen to my noble friend Lady Deech, as somebody else has said, and to find myself for once agreeing with everything she has said. Long may that continue—let us not go back to the other subject, if you please.

I declare an interest as a governor of Coram. For 24 years I had the privilege of being the chairman of the largest educator into primary schools in the United Kingdom of health and drug education. During the course of my chairmanship we reached about 5 million children. We have quite a lot of experience of the challenges of teaching children about difficult subjects appropriately. I shall return briefly to the subject we spoke about this afternoon in the Cross-Bench meeting: it is difficult to teach an extraordinarily difficult and sensitive subject such as this really well. It is an enormous burden to place on a primary school teacher, with all of the pressures on them from all sides, to teach this really well; in a way that makes them feel proud as a professional; in a way that makes the children feel that they are learning something important; in a way that the parents feel respects the family and their own code of morality, but which is also appropriate for the strange and complex world of the 21st century in which the children are growing up. We cannot run away from it—it is all around us. Children spend an inordinate amount of time on social media and on their phones; if somebody does not teach them appropriately, you can guess where else they will learn it from, and whatever they learn, it will almost certainly be hilarious but perhaps disastrously wrong.

I therefore emphasise the importance of this being taught well. I suggest again that while £6 million to help training in the first year is welcome, it will be woefully inadequate once this is rolled out nationally, and I appeal for continuous assessment from the very start of the trial to get feedback on what is working well and less well. Lastly, again, as we mentioned this afternoon, please can we do something very un-British and un-English and learn from best practice in other countries which have been doing this for much longer than us, particularly the Netherlands?