Relationships, Sex and Health Education: Statutory Guidance - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 2:56 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 2:56, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I declare my interest as a governor of Coram, and for 24 years I was the chair of the largest provider of health education to primary schools in the country. It is extremely pertinent that the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, is in his place because, when the Minister has heard the question I will pose, she may wish to spend some time with him.

The independent expert panel that assisted the department is notable for the absence of anybody who is an expert on online safety. It is as if the department is unaware that we spent a great deal of the last year on what became the Online Safety Act, looking in great detail at the protection of children. We say the purpose of the new age limits is to make sure that children are not taught things before they are ready to understand them, but does the Minister not accept that the problem is that children are seeing things that they do not understand and at the moment will not be able to discuss in school or ask their teacher about? They are also unlikely to ask their parents about it. Some 25% of children under the age of nine have smartphones, while a large proportion of under-11 year-olds are, illegally, using WhatsApp. This is the reality. This is the innocent childhood that the children of today are experiencing; it is not the childhood that we had. So I beseech the Minister to work closely with the team that has done huge work on the Online Safety Act, and with the people at Ofcom who are drawing the code together, to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, preferably with a brain in between.