The chairs of five select committees have written a joint letter to the education secretary asking her to ensure that sex education becomes compulsory in schools.
Conservative MPs Neil Carmichael, Maria Miller, and Sarah Wollaston joined forces with Yvette Cooper and Iain Wright from Labour following a government response to a report on the matter earlier this week.
The Department for Education said on Monday that it would not follow up on the women and equalities committee's recommendation to make sex and relationship education (SRE) compulsory.
Instead, it said it would take a “holistic school-based approach” to the issue, adding only that "the case for further action on PSHE [personal, social, and health education] and SRE delivery is actively under review”, which angered MPs and campaigners.
Miller, the chair of the committee, told BuzzFeed News at the time: “With 2 in 3 girls facing sexual harassment in schools and colleges each year we welcome the government’s response to our report and their acknowledgment of its seriousness. But the voluntary measures proposed do not create the safe environment that young people should expect at school".
She has now been joined by the chairs of the education, home affairs, business, and health committees for the joint letter, which condemns the government's "lacklustre response".
The chair of the health committee, Sarah Wollaston, told BuzzFeed News: "Chairing the inquiry into children's and young people's access to mental health services in the last parliament, it became clear that young people would benefit from PHSE in schools to help to build resilience.
"In particular, the committee was concerned about the impact of bullying and social media on children. The government should listen to the concerns expressed on behalf of parliament by so many select committee chairs and take this simple first step of giving PHSE statutory status."
The letter urges Greening to support a private member's bill currently going through the House of Commons that would introduce a statutory status for PSHE.
Green MP Caroline Lucas, who is behind the bill, said on Wednesday: "This letter from committee chairs across the political spectrum is a potential game-changer. Theresa May is reported to have previously backed compulsory PSHE and I would urge her to follow the advice from these senior MPs and back my PSHE bill."
Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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