“Today’s children and young people are growing up in an increasingly complex world and living their lives seamlessly on and offline. This presents many positive and exciting opportunities, but also challenges and risks. In this environment, children and young people need to know how to be safe and healthy, and how to manage their academic, personal and social lives in a positive way.”
This is the opening text of the statutory guidance for interpersonal health education, written by the Department for Education of the United Kingdom. Going into effect this month, it provides s a rubric for how schools are to teach students about relationships, sex, and health education.
Broadly, the new guidelines sketch out a curriculum for schools to teach “what makes a good friend, a good colleague, and a successful marriage,” as well as provide education on safe sexual and romantic practices, consent, and online safety.
And in what LGBTQ voices in the U.K. are calling “a landmark step forward,” the new guidance also requires that education to be inclusive to gay, trans, and intersex students. Yes, even the sex ed.
“For me, it would have been life-changing to receive this education,” said Josh Bradlow, representative of Stonewall, a London-based LGBTQ organization. He says it would have helped to prepare him to make better choices as a teenager and an adult, and also believes that it would have helped to “normalize” what he was going through, both for himself and his non-LGBTQ cohorts.
“This teaching will have just as strong an impact on LGBT people as non-LGBT people,” Bradlow said. “I think this plays a tremendous and decisive role in helping to tackle bullying.”
As recently as 2003, U.K. sex education was bound by Section 28, a measure which strictly prevented any teaching or publishing anything at all relating to same-sex relations, whether physical or romantic. Measures such as that played a massive part in the othering of LGBTQ people, damaging queer youths and actively promoting their bullying and repression.
The new guidelines have majority support, not just from the English members of Parliament, which voted for them 538-21 in 2019, but also in the British public and especially the youths who will be the ones learning under this guidance.