SEF Statement on Sex Education Bill

On 20th  January 2012, Nadine Dorries MP's proposed Sex Education (Required Content) Bill is due to have its  'second reading' in the House of Commons.  This Bill seeks to secure abstinence education for girls aged 13 to 16.

The Sex Education Forum (SEF) believes that all children and young people, both boys and girls, are entitled to quality sex and relationships education (SRE). It should be accurate and factual, age appropriate and cover a comprehensive range of information about sex, relationships, the law and sexual health.  Sexual delay is one aspect of SRE, but should be taught within the broader context of healthy and safe relationship choices and not in isolation*.

SRE needs to start in primary school, to ensure that children have the basic information on how their bodies work, being safe and reproduction before more in-depth topics on sexual choices can be introduced in later years. SRE should also be relevant and meet the needs of all children and young people, regardless of gender.

Quality SRE is much more than just the biological basics which are currently part of statutory provision. Programmes should encourage the development of skills to ensure good communication and provide opportunities for reflection in order to help children and young people nurture personal values based on mutual respect and care. It also ensures they are clearly informed of their rights such as how they can access confidential advice and health services.

Any proposals to change sex and relationships education need to consider the evidence of what is good practice, ensure SRE comprehensive and inclusive of all pupils.


*A review of sexual abstinence programmes (Underhill et al 2007) found that no programme affected the incidence of unprotected sex, number of partner, condom use, or sexual initiation.  For programmes to be effective they must be comprehensive (Kirby 2008).

Underhill, K. Montgomery, P. Operario, D. (2007) Sexual abstinence only programmes to prevent HIV infection in high income countries: systemic review. BMJ 2007; 335:248-259

Kirby, D.B. (2008) The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 2008, Volume 5, Number 3, Pages 18-27