“Their reluctance to meet, combined with their total lack of action when it comes to both the issue of teenage relationship abuse, is both concerning and disappointing. They don’t seem to take young people seriously. We know from the government’s own data that 16-18 year olds are some of the most at risk for abuse, so why cap RSE at KS4?”
Tracy Blackwell, acting CEO of Refuge said the delay was “disappointing”.
“We are disappointed that the government has delayed responding to the Select Committee’s recommendations and that the minister, Robbie Gibb will not meet those advocating for this,” Blackwell told The Big Issue.
“We urge the government to prioritise the safety and well-being of young people by mandating sex and relationship education for 16-19 year olds and not delay acting on this urgent issue. It’s time for action, not delay.”
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Currently, RSE is only compulsory up until year 11. Petron’s campaign to have all college and sixth form students be taught about domestic abuse and healthy relationships saw more than 90,000 people sign a petition.
After this, MPs on parliament’s women and equalities committee found that this “leaves young people making their first steps in the adult world under-supported and less equipped to navigate potentially harmful and dangerous situations and keep themselves safe and healthy in relationships”.
It adopted Petron’s recommendation that compulsory RSHE be extended to post 16 – seemingly a victory for the campaign – with a government response due by 5 September. However, a response date is now “TBC” after the original deadline passed.
In addition to the petition, Petron sent an open letter – signed by leading organisations including Women’s Aid and Refuge – to ministers at the Department for Education.
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In a response Robbie Gibb, the minister for schools, declined a meeting due to “diary pressures”, but said tackling gender based abuse “is a top priority for the government”.
Gibb added that the government had produced RSHE teacher training modules, and is reviewing the RSHE statutory guidance, undertaking a consultation in the autumn, with a view to publishing revised guidance in 2024.
Petron said Gibb’s response – refusing to meet – was largely the same as she had received throughout the campaign.
“I have had the exact same copy-and-paste response from the government since my campaign’s inception. Their reluctance to meet, combined with their total lack of action when it comes to both the issue of teenage relationship abuse, is both concerning and disappointing.
“They don’t seem to take young people seriously. We know from the government’s own data that 16-18 year olds are some of the most at risk for abuse, so why cap RSE at KS4? It’s wilful ignorance.”