DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
Activism

'Five friends influence government' as UK inches closer to compulsory domestic abuse lessons

The government is 'considering' making relationships and sex education lessons compulsory for college students

The activists behind the Make It Mandatory campaign group calling for education on domestic abuse for all teenagers. Left to right: Ithar Ghalifa, Jasmine Godden Melendez, Faustine Petron, Darius Smith. Image: Eliza Pitkin / The Big Issue

Compulsory domestic abuse lessons for college students have moved a step closer, with campaigners hailing a “historic” win as the government considers making the change.

After weeks of delay, the government has now confirmed it is considering a recommendation by MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee. If put into action, it would mean relationships and sex education (RSHE) becoming compulsory in post-16 education.

The campaign is spearheaded by student Faustine Petron, who began the Make It Mandatory campaign following her experience of an abusive relationship.

“We have influenced the government as a group of five friends,” Petron told The Big Issue.

“Today we’ll be celebrating that but keeping the pressure up, so their considerations manifest in real – and potentially life-saving – changes for young people.”

Change a Big Issue vendor’s life this Christmas by purchasing a Winter Support Kit. You’ll receive four copies of the magazine and create a brighter future for our vendors through Christmas and beyond.

Currently, RSE is only compulsory up to year 11 – but pupils must remain in education until they are 18.

Compulsory lessons will help young people recognise the signs of coercive control and domestic abuse, the campaigners argue, and encourage healthy relationships in an at-risk group.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committtee, said the government needed to “crack on” and make the change.

“There is a really obvious gap between 16 and 18 when young people are required to be in education or training, but there is no requirement for them to be receiving any sort of RSHE at all,” Nokes told The Big Issue.

Issues such as explicit image sharing, consent, and sexually transmitted diseases are all commonplace among 16-18-year-olds, Nokes added.

“That is why the government needs to crack on with issuing guidance to schools, needs to complete the review into RSHE and not shy away from making sure our young people are equipped to deal with the world in which they actually are,” Nokes said.

Backed by domestic abuse charity Refuge, Petron and her fellow campaigners took a 90,000-strong petition to parliament on Valentine’s Day.

They believed they were close to a victory in July when MPs backed the change, but were kept in the dark for months after the initial September 5 deadline for a response came and went.

“For one and a half years they have given us a very clear no, straight up, every single time,” Petron added.

“This is landmark as it’s the first time the government themselves are considering it. They have said no unfortunately – and very wrongly – to most of the other recommendations”.

The Department for Education would not give any further details on its ‘consideration’, but in a statement told The Big Issue: “The Department for Education is currently considering a recommendation from the Women and Equalities Select Committee, made on 5 July 2023, that relationships, health and sex education should be compulsory for young people in post-16 educational settings.”

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke: 'Surviving brain injuries gave me a fire to keep going'
Exclusive

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke: 'Surviving brain injuries gave me a fire to keep going'

'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians
Pride

'We are here and we exist': Inside the neighbourhood offering sanctuary to queer Russians and Ukrainians

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'
Liz Carr
Disability rights

Actor Liz Carr says it hurts to hear her younger self 'wanted to die'

Feeling like change in the UK isn't possible? Let these 28 purposeful campaigns prove otherwise
Activism

Feeling like change in the UK isn't possible? Let these 28 purposeful campaigns prove otherwise

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know