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19 March 2009

Compulsory sex education up for discussion

The Conservatives have hinted that, if in government, they would not maintain compulsory sex and relationships education, reports Children & Young People Now.

The current Labour government intends to introduce compulsory SRE from 2011.

Statistics released in February showed that the teenage pregnancy rate in England and Wales has risen for the first time since 2002. Anne Milton MP, Shadow Minister for Health, said this would have little impact on teenage pregnancy rates or STIs.

‘Making sex education compulsory isn’t the answer to the problem,’ she said. ‘The government have said that they want to make sex education compulsory but this doesn’t address any issues about the quality of it. We need a much more co-ordinated approach.’

Milton said her party is yet to formulate any firm policy on tackling teenage pregnancy or STIs but outlined some of the broad themes it will follow. These reportedly include ‘encouraging faithfulness and commitment’ and tackling issues around alcohol and drug misuse. ‘This is not just about health, it is mainly about social and economic change,’ she said.

At a conference organised by the Westminster Health Forum on 17 March, chaired by Anne Milton MP, Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS, spoke to delegates about the issues around SRE and unintended pregnancy in young people. Furedi argued that SRE was not a ‘magic bullet’ in the issue of teenage pregnancy, and said that SRE needed to address the reality of the lives of young people, be respectful of each individual’s choice to become a mother or not, and be pragmatic enough to discuss with young people what might happen if contraception let them down or if they failed to use it.

Also on this issue, the Health Service Journal responds to the release of the latest teenage conception and pregnancy statistics for England and Wales, detailing NHS public health initiatives in this area.

Tories favour optional sex education. Children & Young People Now, 12 March 2009

Teenage pregnancy: mothers tide. Health Service Journal, 16 March 2009

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