Professionals say mandatory sex and relationships education in schools will tackle domestic abuse in Suffolk

Have a go at the 2016 Sats tests. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI

Have a go at the 2016 Sats tests. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI - Credit: PA

Top workers in the field of domestic abuse in Suffolk have welcomed the Government’s decision to make sex and healthy relationships education compulsory in all schools.

Sally Winston, chief executive of Lighthouse Womens Aid

Sally Winston, chief executive of Lighthouse Womens Aid - Credit: Archant

The change means children from the age of four will be taught about safe relationships and secondary school pupils will also be given lessons in sex, including modern phenomena such as cyber bullying, online pornography and ‘sexting’.

Education Secretary Justine Greening has said all teaching will be age-appropriate and parents will have the right to withdraw their children from the classes if they wish.

Sally Winston, chief executive of Suffolk-based Lighthouse Women’s Aid, said the charity had been pushing for this move for a long time.

She added: “If there’s any chance of breaking the cycle of domestic abuse it needs to start with children so they understand what a healthy relationship is so they have the opportunity not to go into an unhealthy relationship.

Jane Basham, director of Suffolk Rape Crisis, welcomed the news. Picture: BARRY ELEY

Jane Basham, director of Suffolk Rape Crisis, welcomed the news. Picture: BARRY ELEY - Credit: Archant

“I think ultimately it should have a positive impact in terms of the future of domestic abuse.

“It’s possibly the only way forward in some respects of tackling the problem right at ground level.

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“It’s a really good, positive piece of legislation and something that we have been campaigning for in the background for a long, long time.

“I think it can only have, providing it’s delivered properly, a positive impact.”

Currently, sex education is mandatory only for secondary pupils in schools run by local authorities.

Under the new rules, the subject will have to be taught in all schools in England, including academies, independent schools and religious free schools.

Jane Basham, director of Suffolk Rape Crisis, said: “From our front line specialist work we know about the often life-long impact of sexual violence on women and girls - it is important to recognise that sexual violence is disproportionately gendered against women and girls.

“We so welcome this announcement and believe that age appropriate compulsory PSHE (personal, social and health education) will play such a vital part in addressing confusion about consent in sexual relationships and challenging rape myths.

“We look forward to specialist groups like Rape Crisis being involved in shaping and developing this education.”

The Government will hold discussions on what the fresh curriculum will look like, and there will be a full public consultation later this year.

The updates could come into force from September 2019, the Department for Education said.