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Barnardo’s Cymru calls for compulsory sex and relationship lessons for all children

Barnardo’s Cymru is calling on the Welsh Government to introduce compulsory sex and relationship lessons for all children after young people themselves said they wanted more advice on staying safe, particularly online.

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The charity has carried out a survey among 11 to 15-year-olds which showed that three quarters (74%) of those questioned believe they would be safer if they had age-appropriate lessons in school.

Barnardo’s Cymru believes that schools need to do more to protect young people from the dangers of online grooming and exploitation in an increasingly complicated digital world.

The charity is urging the Welsh Government to include compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE) in the curriculum which is currently being updated.  The Welsh Government stopped short of doing so in 2014 when similar calls were made by charities during the progress of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015.

The Welsh Government commissioned Barnardo’s Cymru to provide an educational resource and teacher training sessions on the risks of hidden child sexual exploitation but the charity believes it is time to go further.

Sarah Crawley, Director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said:

We are urging the Welsh Government to introduce compulsory, age-appropriate sex and relationship education in schools, including safe use of digital media.

It’s time to listen to children themselves who are telling us they lack confidence in staying safe online and are saying they need help in understanding the risks and avoiding danger.”

In the poll carried out among 1,200 children and teenagers across the UK, 96% said it was important for them to understand the dangers of being online and 94% wanted to know the risks of sharing images of themselves with a stranger online.

The charity is also asking MPs to demand changes to the Children and Social Work Bill when it is debated in the House of Commons to ensure compulsory CSE is introduced in English schools.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:

Online grooming is a very real danger facing all children and nearly half of the girls polled said they were worried about strangers contacting them online.”

Barnardo’s Ambassador and former Girls Aloud singer, Nicola Roberts said:

With sexting becoming such a huge problem, it’s essential that children know how to protect themselves online. Children have told the government they want school lessons on sex and relationships to help keep them safe.

Now it’s down to the government to stop letting them fend for themselves online and protect children by providing compulsory sex and relationships education.”

This is just as true for children in Wales.

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