Quality school Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is vital to combat the alarming rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people, says the chair of the inclusive schools campaign Accord.
Figures released yesterday by the Health Protection Agency (HPS) have shown that rates of STIs increased again in 2009, continuing the steady rise over the last decade.
STIs were highest among young adults, with two thirds of new diagnoses in women under 25, and half of new STI diagnoses in men aged under 25.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition commented: "At the moment the education system fails many children by requiring that they are only taught about the basic biological aspects of sex, contraception and sexually transmitted infections in secondary school science lessons. It is little wonder therefore, that the UK has growing rates of STIs and the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Western Europe."
He continued: "Good age appropriate Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) seeks to do many things, including to give children the tools to be clear about personal boundaries, to resist pressure assertively, to seek help when they need it and to challenge misleading and inappropriate messages. However, it is also known to reduce unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and the HPA’s latest figures only reinforce the pressing need for better SRE in our schools."
Dr Romain added: "Personal, Social, Health and Economic edcuation, which includes SRE, should be made compulsory throughout key stages one to four in all state maintained schools and the Government should use the opportunity provided by its forthcoming National Curriculum review to enact this."
"Current SRE provision in the UK lags behind that of many developed countries and our failure to ensure that schools provide thorough, accurate and balanced SRE places our children’s health and wellbeing at risk. All children in all state maintained schools should have an entitlement to high standard SRE, regardless of which school they attend," he concluded.
The Accord Coalition (www.accordcoalition.org.uk/) was launched in September 2008 to bring together religious and non-religious organisations and individuals campaigning for an end to discrimination in school staffing and admissions.