As the country grapples with the problems of home-grown jihadis and the meltdown of the EuroZone it seems the Liberal Democrats have highlighted this year’s most pressing issue: sex education. The party has announced that its plan for compulsory sex ed in schools had been blocked by the Conservatives but is now a firm manifesto commitment.
David Laws, who is drafting the education section of the manifesto, told the Times it was “vitally important” that the curriculum included a compulsory sex education. He said “We believe that by educating children about sex and relationships in an appropriate way, we can help them to make informed choices in their personal lives.”
The party will now go into the next election promising pupils at all state schools, including faith schools and academies will get “age-appropriate” sex and relationship education. However, the Conservatives have already pledged to block the proposal meaning that a coalition with them would not result in the change being enacted.
Conversely Labour have pledged they will definitely introduce it if they get power, meaning that a coalition with between the parties would also have no practical policy impact.
Traditionalists are likely to rail against having Liberal Democrat ministers preaching morality to children, of any type. Laws himself was forced to resign as a Treasury minister in 2010 after it was exposed that he had fiddled his parliamentary expenses. He made the taxpayer fund a bedroom for him on expenses in his partners house without declaring they were together.
When it comes specifically to sexual conduct the party do not fare much better. The former Chief Executive Lord Rennard was suspended from the party after he conceded he may have “inadvertently encroached” into the “personal space” of a number of women. Their assessment of the incidents concerned were far more graphic.
However, most observers are likely to ask why this legislation is important. At present parents have the right to decide how their children are educated on sex and relationship. In most faith schools this is generally in line with the teachings of that religion, although parents can chose to opt-out in any case.
These rules will take away the right to decide from governing bodies at individual schools and instead place them with the government. David Laws explained the move by saying: “Currently academies and free schools have no requirement to teach sex and relationship education, depriving children of important life lessons.
“Liberal Democrats are committed to ensuring that children have access to age-appropriate sex and relationship education regardless of where they go to school.” This means that even small children will be given sex education based on a ‘age appropriate’ definition from Whitehall.