Sex, Relationships & Health Education | Our Consultation Response

Background

In July this year the Government launched a consultation on its draft guidelines for Relationships, Sex and Health Education in schools. We used this opportunity to launch our Put Cancer on the Curriculum campaign.

The campaign was underpinned by new independent research that revealed two thirds of UK parents think children should be educated on cancer, and that nearly a third of parents feel uncomfortable talking about cancer with their own children. We also discovered over half of parents believe a cancer education awareness programme should include gynaecological awareness.

About the campaign

We asked parents, politicians, our supporters, other stakeholder organisations and members of the public to sign up to this campaign pledge:

So far, nearly 1,000 people have signed up to pledge their support, and 96 media articles have reached an audience of more than 20 million. The reach of The Eve Appeal social media campaign to amend the guidance has so far surpassed one million people, with the campaign liked and shared by over 4,000 people on Twitter alone.

But it’s not just us who wanted to see this happen. A wealth of organisations supported our campaign, including:

Others also voiced their support, including many MPs from across the political spectrum, psychiatrists, teachers, sexologists, GPs, oncologists, cancer survivors, as well as national charities including Bowel Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK.

Consultation response summary

The Eve Appeal welcomed the introduction of the draft statutory guidance, and believes this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively impact the lives of both this generation and those of the future.

We know two thirds of parents want to see their children taught about cancer in schools. Parents believe early awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer is vital for their children – but our research shows that a third of them feel uncomfortable talking about cancer at home.

The Eve Appeal urges the Government to amend the draft guidance to include education on cancer, along with enhanced anatomical body knowledge. We also need boys and girls to learn about the benefits of the HPV vaccination programme (as well as the cervical cancer screening programme), as they are currently not mentioned in the guidelines.

There is also overwhelming public support for amending the draft guidance to reflect the need to include a cancer education programme for school children.

We want the next generation of children to be armed with knowledge that can help save lives. A child’s relationship with their body is the longest one they will have – and we want schools to teach them how to respect and understand it. We know early diagnosis is imperative to a better outcome for patients – especially with gynae cancers – and preventing cancer is what we, and parents, all want to see.

More than 21,000 women in the UK are diagnosed each year with gynaecological cancer, which equates to 58 diagnoses each day. Yet despite this, awareness levels among both women and men are startlingly low.

Furthermore, cervical screening rates are at their lowest for two decades, and we know that 854 women died from cervical cancer in England in 2016. If girls are better educated on the benefits of attending their cervical screening appointment in schools then we believe this tragic figure could be lowered.

That’s why we’re determined to change this by raising much-needed awareness that gynae cancers exist, and the associated signs and symptoms of these brutal cancers. The draft guidance is a brilliant opportunity to make a real difference, and we hope on behalf of all of our supporters and parents out there, that their voices will be heard.

Our specific requests for amendments to the guidance include:

  1. Amending paragraph 57 (under Respectful relationships) to say ‘pupils should know the importance of self-respect for their own bodies, in order to better equip the next generation to spot the signs and symptoms of cancer’.
  2. Amending paragraph 63 to say: ‘The Department continues to recommend therefore that all primary schools should have a sex education programme tailored to the age and the physical and emotional maturity of the pupils. It should ensure that both boys and girls are prepared for the changes adolescence brings (including how to spot the signs and symptoms of abnormal changes to their own body, including those that may be linked to cancer)…’
  3. Amending paragraph 68 (as well as the suggested content for Sexual Health in paragraph 77) to recognise that a child’s relationship with their body is the longest they will ever have.
  4. Expanding paragraph 87 so it includes a reference to teaching pupils the correct names for body parts.
  5. Amending paragraphs 93 and 97 to make a reference to spotting the signs and symptoms of cancer. We also advise there to be clarification that boys and girls are to be taught about the benefits and educated about the HPV vaccination programme and the importance of attending their cervical screening appointment as adults (for girls).

For more information

To receive a copy of our full consultation response please contact us via email office@eveappeal.org.uk, but if you’d like to view our campaign resources and research please click here.