It is my firmly believed assumption that anytime you find yourself on the other side of an argument that UKIP is espousing you are on very solid ground. However, even by their cave dwelling, prehistoric brand of pugnacious idiocy I was startled to see them railing against Sex and Relationship Education classes as being the promotion of feckless, immoral coupling. To hear them talk about it as though the DfE were trying to usher in the second summer of love, a kind of Caligulean orgiastic mass rutting of under age students in schools up and down the country was particularly galling.
The breath taking idiocy of the suggestion is based on the slimmest of siloed statistics. A report shows the inverse correlation between funding cuts for SRE and teenage pregnancy and it is with this that uptight religious groups and small minded idiots are hectoring the government to abandon all efforts to instruct and teach students about how to protect themselves both emotionally and physically. Obviously when you factor in a wide variety of external factors, such as the massive decrease in teenage drinking, the lowering of ‘risky’ behaviour as a result of that, a generation of parents coming through with a more approachable and informed attitude and the rise of social media as a nocturnal activity the decrease is more understandable. Also, let us not forget that there are far more issues than simply becoming pregnant and this report doesn’t take into account STIs, relationship abuse or luddite attitudes and behaviours to the LGBTQ community. Fortunately the wildly outdated curriculum for this has been updated and approved and is being slowly rolled out with all the major political parties behind it. However, in an environment where it’s increasingly likely that back room deals and having to borrow votes from elsewhere in the house to get things passed is the new reality then outmoded fringe politics shouldn’t be given air to breathe, particularly when they can contaminate that air with their noxious waffle.
SRE, like careers advice is an incredibly important and often overlooked part of educating the whole person. Students with poor familial role models, if not addressed early will grow up with a deeply flawed understanding of the positive and beneficial aspects of healthy relationships. Too often in this country women are made to feel lesser, and within a specific section of society, that goes largely unchecked, over time, subtly lowering their aspirations and expectations as we artificially sublimate their ambition. If young women are given an understanding of what they could and should expect from a relationship maybe they’ll be less inclined to settle for whatever turns up and have a sense of their own worth, which in turn will create hopes for the future that don’t necessarily include having a child young. Equally young men growing up in a household where they see only the subjugation of women believe that is right and proper, never appreciating the benefits of a mutually rewarding partnership. These are very normal circumstances for many up and down the country and that doesn’t even begin to account for those growing up in intolerant and bigoted households where many will be wrestling with LGBTQ issues and have no where to turn. The fact of the matter is that schools, for many students, are a safe haven where they have engaged and interested staff who will try and work with them on a range of emotional and educational issues without prejudice or judgement. Without that safe outlet, many will become insular and isolated from the world, their hopes for the future start to wither. Which is not just bad for them, it’s bad for the country.
If, as I always try and say, schools are there to prepare their students for life outside the school gates however you choose to define that, then SRE is an invaluable part of the puzzle indeed, 74% of 11-15 year olds said they would feel safer knowing and understanding the risks and pitfalls of sex and relationships in a YouGov poll. Furthermore 94% of students agreed that they would feel safer with some level of instruction about how to stay safe online in relation to SRE issues. There is the political will, the obvious need and the desire of the students to do this so when you head to the polls tomorrow, regardless of your political stripes please understand that a vote for UKIP is not just a spoiled ballot but also a vote to drag us further towards a reactionary far right nation of old fashioned zealots.