Today it’s an issue which has been the cause of much disagreement within the Coalition Government, and hence the party press release has a couple of more direct jibes at the Conservatives than is usual in official statements featuring David Laws:
Children in state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, will be guaranteed age appropriate sex and relationship education, as well as financial literacy and citizenship lessons, under manifesto plans announced by the Liberal Democrats.
This ‘Curriculum for Life’ would mean that Personal, Social & Health Education (PSHE) is compulsory in all state-funded schools to help ensure that all children in state education are taught the life skills they need.
Making PSHE compulsory is a move that has been strongly resisted by Conservatives inside the coalition Government.
Commenting, Schools Minister David Laws said:
“It is vitally important that children learn all the life skills they need when they are at school, and Liberal Democrats believe that this should include learning financial literacy, citizenship and age-appropriate sex and relationship education.
“We have long made the case, both inside and outside Government, for updated sex and relationship education to be taught in all schools, including academies and free schools, but it is not something the Conservatives are open to. 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.
“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.
“By learning how to manage money and be a good citizen, we will be equipping children with the skills necessary to deal with the many practical issues that they will face in adult life, such as balancing a budget or voting for the first time.
“Teaching these important life lessons will help to build the stronger economy and fairer society that Liberal Democrats want to see.”
This idea of having common basic standards for state schools which apply just as much to academies and free schools as to other types of state schools is likely to be a major theme of the party’s education policy at the 2015 general election. Don’t abolish such schools but apply the same standards to them as to other state schools.
Once again, strictly speaking, this is a proposal for inclusion in the manifesto rather than a decision on the manifesto. The pre-manifesto document will get debated at the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow this October.
Take a look at my archive of policy posts to see the other proposals recently launched.