On Thursday 21st June, Dr Kirsty Liddiard, from the School of Education and iHuman, was invited to participate in the Sheffield Sexual Health Network’s new Sex and Relationship Education Task Group at Scotiaworks. The Task Group has been established to enable Sheffield schools to plan and prepare for the government’s policy changes to sex and relationship education, which will be instituted in September 2019. The changes, brought in by then-Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening, emerged through amendments to the Children and Social Work Act (2017), and will make it a requirement that all schools in England – primary and secondary, maintained and academy – teach relationships and sex education (SRE) in some form.
Dr Liddiard will remain a key contributor of the group until September 2019, and likely beyond, in order to support local schools in meeting their new obligations. While such changes are widely welcomed, they are not without their anxieties. A National Education Union (NEU) survey revealed that although 91% of school leaders and teachers feel that SRE should have a regular slot in school timetables and be an integral part of the school curriculum, only 29% of respondents felt confident that their school would be ready to deliver by the September 2019 deadline. New curricula are inclusive of sexting, sexual bullying and assault, and issues around consent and pornography, and a stronger emphasis will be put upon mutual relationships and intimacies with others in order ‘to emphasise the central importance of healthy relationships’ (Department for Education, 2018).
Dr Liddiard, author of The intimate Lives of Disabled People (Routledge 2018), will be offering her knowledge of disability and sex/uality, bringing to the group the significant issues that are commonly experienced by disabled people when making claims for sexual and intimate selfhood and identity, but seldom considered. These include cultural desexualisation; excessive paternalism and protectionism; exclusion and isolation, not to mention high rates of sexual abuse and sexual and intimate partner violence.