PSHE debate: Caroline welcomes cross-party support, urges action

PSHE Association Chief says Caroline's PSHE Bill provides “perfect opportunity”

Caroline has welcomed growing cross party support for action to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education statutory in state schools. 
Caroline, who has campaigned for statutory PSHE for several years, said she was “particularly pleased” to see Conservatives including Norman Fowler and Sarah Wollaston calling for statutory PSHE and hoped the Government would allow Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs an un-whipped vote on the issue.
She tabled a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) for statutory PSHE in July. Its second reading is due in the Commons in October.
She was “encouraged”, she said, at the increased political consensus on the issue, saying it represented “a huge stride forwards”.
She said: “We have now an unprecedented cross-party opportunity to make a crucial difference to the health, safety and wellbeing of our children.”
Caroline welcomed signs of support from Ed Miliband and support on the issue from Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls, Seema Malhotra MP. She also welcomed the pledge from Schools Minister David Laws that the Liberal Democrats supported statutory PSHE education.
However, she urged political parties not to delay on their pledges until the General Election in May.
She said: “It’s great these pledges have now been made. But why wait until the election to act? There’s no reason to delay. If they mean what they say, then they should back my Bill, we can have the debate and children can start getting the education they need and deserve.
“We can’t move forward on words alone. We have a solution – we need to grasp it.”
She said the horror of the Rotherham abuse cases highlighted this week should be a stark warning to Ministers.
“As anxious as we are to protect our children and young people from all harm, that’s a huge challenge” she said. “Part of the solution is to give them the best possible opportunity to learn about consent and respect in relationships, and to understand their rights and responsibilities. Lessons which help keep our children safe, healthy and happy shouldn’t be an optional ‘bolt on’ – they are essential, as is provision of proper support for the teachers leading them.”
Joe Hayman, Chief Executive of the PSHE Association, said: “Three reports this week – including the Rotherham Inquiry – have called for lessons that help children stay safe and healthy to be compulsory on the school curriculum. These reports are just the latest in a long line of similar calls for an entitlement to such education for every child, none of which have been acted upon. Caroline Lucas’ PSHE Bill provides the perfect opportunity for MPs from across the political spectrum to ensure that these recommendations are not forgotten again, so we are grateful to have heard leading MPs such as David Laws, Seema Malhotra and Sarah Wollaston voicing their support in recent days.
Caroline said: “The importance of ensuring every child has access to education around sex, health and relationships can barely be understated. We know that parents across the country support this move, and we also know that such education has significant knock on benefits both on academic attainment and future employability.
“Schools have a crucial role to play in helping all young people to stay safe, and in particular work to prevent violence against women and girls must become an integral part of education policy, delivered in every school as part of the statutory curriculum.
“We must seize this opportunity.”
Holly Dustin, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "We warmly welcome Caroline Lucas' Bill to ensure that all state-funded schools work to end violence against women and girls. Unfortunately, abuse is a huge problem in all communities, not just Rotherham, and we must tackle the root causes by teaching boys about sexual consent and respectful, non-abusive relationships. There is widespread support for this approach and we hope that all parties can work together to create a safer future for women and girls."


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