The United Kingdom’s House of Lords have rejected the Children and Families Bill, which would have made sex education compulsory in state-funded primary and secondary schools.
The amendment debate that took place on January 28 showed a total of 142 peers voting in support of the bill and 209 against it.
The bill would have made sexual education, including sexual relationships, same-sex relationships, consent, sexual violence and domestic violence, a core part of the curriculum.
The Labour party proposed the same bill in the summer of 2013 to the House of Commons, but Conservative MPs and the Liberal Democrats shut it down.
Despite the House of Lords voting against the amendment, the Department for Education continues to work with schools to improve sexual education. They intend to send head teachers new advice that has been researched and produced by experts.
Brook, the PSHE Association, and the Sex Education Forum are three organizations that are working together to write new information for the government.
Brook’s chief executive Simon Blake told Pink News that they are “disappointed but not deterred by the Lords’ vote against statutory SRE,” adding that they were “greatly heartened to hear so many peers stand up” in support of updated mandatory sexual education.
On Wednesday, January 15, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg spoke at a reception for sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) saying that the “wrangles in the Coalition Government” has left schools reliant on ancient governmental guidance that has not been updated for over thirteen years.
He added that there is a significant need to “improve, strengthen, modernize and update the way that we provide sex and relationship guidance and education in schools.”
He also said it was important to help fight the rising cases of HIV amongst LGBT youths, as well as reducing homophobia in schools.
Member of the House of Lords Baroness Kidron, who also directed the documentary “InRealLife” about children and the Internet, said this type of statute was a requirement to prevent youths finding themselves in “a world of non-consensual sexual violence.”
However, many conservative peers disagreed with the amendment, saying that governmental interference would reduce teachers’ control over their school’s approach.
Conservative peer Baroness Eaton said she did not think legislation was the answer and she “would be very concerned about how we would guarantee the quality of that kind of teaching.”