Alison Hadley is Chair of the Board of Trustees
April 2021 marks a milestone in the story of the Sex Education Forum. For more than 30 years, we've been at the forefront of the campaign for better sex education for all children and young people in England. Now, as schools gear up to deliver compulsory Relationships and Sex Education lessons, the Sex Education Forum starts life as a new independent charity.
Before we look at what lays ahead of us, it’s important to take a moment to look at what the organisation has already achieved. The Sex Education Forum - previously hosted by the National Children’s Bureau - has brought together educators, researchers, charities, young people, parliamentarians in a common cause to secure statutory RSE. It was a journey spanning over three decades but in 2019 history was made as MPs approved landmark statutory guidance for all schools in England to deliver these lessons.
This was the result of five Parliamentary Select Committees, drawing on the evidence to call for statutory RSE; persistent, powerful campaigning from young people; and opinion polls of parents showing their support for RSE.
Some schools have already started delivering these lessons but from September 2021, all schools will be required to teach RSE that fully meets the new guidance. This is an exciting moment and one we need to get right for every young person in England.
For the Sex Education Forum, our work steps up and our new independent status means we can be even more ambitious in how we can support educators to deliver these vital lessons.
I am delighted to now serve as Chair of the Sex Education Forum’s new Board, and I am very proud to take on this role at this crucial time. Over the past year, members of the previous Sex Education Forum Advisory Group worked tirelessly to ensure there was a smooth transition and the new charity was in the best position to hit the ground running. Alongside my fellow Trustees who bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and ideas - we’re looking forward to working with our members, partners, and supporters to seize the opportunities this new chapter will bring.
To mark this new chapter, we are pleased to offer a free taster membership from now until June. You can get access to our extensive library of quality RSE resources and receive discounts on events.
We know the impact of statutory status will only reach all children and young people if the implementation is effective. UNESCO has provided the international evidence for effective delivery: trained, confident teachers; a comprehensive, inclusive programme with timetabled slots on the curriculum; student participation; partnership with parents and carers; embedded in a whole school approach and combined with easy access to local youth-friendly services.
High-quality RSE, matching this evidence, is already being delivered by many schools across the country. The challenge is bringing all schools to the level of the best to end the postcode lottery still affecting too many children and young people.
The government’s support for implementation will be critical to success, as will a positive narrative on the evidence and benefits of RSE to counter the myths and misinformation promoted by a minority. Critical too will be collaboration, and the Sex Education Forum will continue to offer a range of exciting events, offering the opportunity to share excellent practice, and find solutions to problems, and harness the collective passion and commitment to get this right for future generations.
The strength of the Sex Education Forum has always been our community of partners, members, and supporters, who make up a unique network of individuals and organisations all passionate about RSE. Now as we embark on a new chapter for the Sex Education Forum, I am confident that 34 years on, that passion and determination to get RSE right for every young person remains as strong as ever.
On behalf of the Sex Education Forum Board of Trustees, I look forward to working with partners, members, supporters, both current and new, in the next stage of our journey.
Alison Hadley OBE
Chair of the Board of Trustees