Labour urges compulsory PSHE classes amid sexting 'time-bomb' warning

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Sexting among young people is a "ticking time-bomb" for young people and should be tackled with compulsory lessons on the issue, the shadow education secretary has said.

Lucy Powell said the number of reported incidents of children under 16 sexting has rocketed by 1,200% in the past two years, according to Freedom of Information requests.

She announced Labour's commitment to make personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education - which covers sex education - compulsory in all state schools.

Writing in The Times, she said: "Improving its status would help reverse the downward trend in lesson quality.

"It would ensure there was a broad and balanced framework of standards, with up-to-date guidance that reflects the world we live in."

All maintained secondary schools are obliged to teach the subject but the Government says only that it "expects" academies and free schools to teach it as part of the curriculum.

Singer Nicola Roberts, the former Girls Aloud star, who is an ambassador for children's charity Barnardo's, recently said young women were being left vulnerable to online predators.

Ms Powell, the MP for Manchester Central, said more needs to be done to equip young people to feel safe in relationships both on and offline, and that schools and parents need to work together closely.

She also criticised the Conservatives for failing to prioritise PSHE and said they had "time and again" refused to make the subject compulsory.

She said: "This has seen the subject squeezed out of schools and the quality of lessons that do take place nosedive."

The guidance on sex and relationship education has not changed since 2000.

A survey revealed that one in six teenagers uses the dating app Tinder daily.

She said: "I find it hard to comprehend that an app aimed at hook-ups and dating, that shares location-based information, is being accessed by 13-year-olds, making them vulnerable to grooming."

She added: "It is hard to shake the feeling that this is all storing up trouble for young people - a ticking time-bomb of issue after issue that the next generation have to try to navigate unsupported and on their own."