Today’s news review looks at calls for changes to the way sex education is taught, coverage of a study looking the proportion of women in high-earning jobs, comments Sir Martin Narey on children’s residential care, and the end of maintenance grants.
Sex and relationship education
Dame Vera Baird has written an opinion piece in today’s Guardian that calls for personal, social and health education (PSHE) to be made compulsory in all schools in order to prevent scandals like that which happened in Rotherham. She says: “We need compulsory PSHE to protect future generations from harmful behaviour.”
Sex and relationship education (SRE) is already compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and we know many primary schools teach it in an age-appropriate manner. Academies have greater freedom over their curricula but we still require them to teach SRE as part of their funding agreement.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
High quality sex and relationship education (SRE) is a vital part of preparing young people for life in modern Britain - helping them make informed choices, stay safe and learn to respect themselves and others. Our guidance is clear that young people, whatever their sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationships education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs.
We also expect all school to deliver personal social and health education (PSHE) to a high standard. We know that the vast majority of schools and teachers recognise the importance of PSHE, and trust teachers to tailor their lessons to best suit their pupils. We are focusing on raising the quality of PSHE teaching and working with leading headteachers and practitioners to look at how best to achieve this.
Gender pay gap
Law firm Clyde & Co has published research that claims to show the percentage of female high earners has remained unchanged for the last five years. BBC Breakfast and the Today Programme interviewed Gina Wilson, a partner at Clyde & Co, who stated that women could be choosing to work in sectors that pay less money.
The Government is committed to ending the gender pay gap and today’s coverage mentioned new legislation that will oblige companies with over 250 or more employees to divulge their gender pay gap. The information will be detailed enough for employees to look at the pay for each employee in a company and request a pay rise based on this.
A Government spokesperson said:
You can’t have true opportunity without equality and that’s why eliminating the gender pay gap is a key priority for this government. We are committed to supporting women at all stages of their careers to ensure that they stay in the workforce and progress to the most senior roles.
The overall gender pay gap is the lowest on record at 19.2%, but we are clear that closing the gap is essential for improving the UK economy. We want to see it eliminated in a generation, which is why we will be requiring organisations to publish details of their gender pay gap. Greater transparency will shine a light on workplace practices and create the pressure needed to drive change.
Children’s residential care
Sir Martin Narey was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning about his independent report into children’s residential care in England, published on 4 July.
The interview covered Sir Martin’s views on whether private companies should be allowed to make money from children’s homes, the general standard of children’s homes, the criminalisation of children in care and whether children should be able to stay in touch with their former children’s home.
Sir Martin was clear that most children’s homes are good or better, but said the occasional poor home has affected the reputation of others. He dismissed the Howard League report, published earlier this year, which claimed there is a systematic issue with the criminalisation of young people in children’s homes, and said police and children’s homes are good at making sure this doesn’t happen unnecessarily. Sir Martin said he doesn’t have an ideological problem with private companies making money from the care system as long as the care they provide is good.
He spoke briefly about the Government’s Staying Close initiative, a pilot scheme looking at allowing young people to stay in touch with a children’s home after they leave. He backed the idea, saying it is important that they can continue to go home after they are 18 in the same way as children from conventional families.
Read the Government’s children's social care policy paper – Putting children first: our vision for children’s social care – published in response to Martin Narey’s review in July, which was welcomed by Sir Martin.
Last year as part of the Summer Budget 2015, the Government announced that maintenance grants for students from low-income backgrounds would be replaced by loans.
We are determined to make sure that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so – and our changes to maintenance will increase support to the poorest students while making sure student funding remains sustainable.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to university at a record rate—up from 13.6% in 2009 to 18.5% in 2015. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are now 36% more likely to go to university than they were in 2009.
In January 2016, when the issue was debated in Parliament, Minister Jo Johnson said:
The change to replace grants for living costs with loans was announced in principle at the July 2015 summer Budget. The change helps balance the need to ensure that affordability is not a barrier to higher education, while ensuring that higher education is funded in a fair and sustainable way.