Compulsory Sex Education Lessons Will Start at the Age of Seven
by Laura Clark UK Mail October 24, 2008
'Too much, too young': Family campaigners are
furious about compulsory sex education for
children as young as seven
Children as young as seven will be taught the facts of life in compulsory sex education lessons.
Pupils aged five will prepare for the classes by learning about body parts and sex differences. More explicit material will be covered if it is raised by the youngsters.
Family campaigners are furious at the measures. However, ministers have yet to decide whether parents will be able to withdraw children from the classes, due to be introduced by 2010.
The reforms bring personal, social and health education on to the mandatory school curriculum alongside subjects such as maths and English.
As well as covering sex and relationships, primary and secondary schools will be under a duty to teach pupils about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
Unveiling the shake-up, Schools Minister Jim Knight blamed 'soap storylines and music videos' for increasing children's exposure to 'sexual imagery and sexual content'.
He said age-appropriate sex and relationships education from five onwards was needed to combat the 'earlier sexualisation' of youngsters.
But family campaigners described the lessons as 'too much, too young' and said they could have the opposite effect and encourage sexualisation.
They accused ministers of reneging on a promise to hold a full public consultation before accepting the conclusions of their sex education review group.
Mr Knight formally accepted the group's recommendation to make personal, social and health education statutory for all pupils and merely said he was appointing a head teacher to advise on implementation, including whether parents should have an opt-out.
Guidelines will be drawn up advising schools what children should be taught and when, but Mr Knight said he envisaged the facts of sexual intercourse being covered in key stage two, covering ages seven to 11.
Schools would be given flexibility on when to introduce the topic within broad age parameters and would be urged to consult parents, he said.
Teachers will also be told not to duck discussions about 'explicit sexual matters' if they are raised by pupils at key stage one, covering five to seven-year-olds, though they should avoid doing so in front of the whole class.
Currently primary schools decide whether to provide sex education and what it should involve beyond science requirements laid down by the national curriculum, which cover the main stages of the life cycle.
If they do provide it, parents have the right to withdraw their children.
Mr Knight said: 'At key stage one they will be learning about themselves, their differences, their friendships, how to have strong friendships and how to manage their feelings.
'That then allows them in key stage two to learn about puberty and then about the facts of life.'
Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said: 'One of the dangers of introducing sex education at an early age is that it risks breaking down children's natural sense of reserve.'
Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: ' Secondary schools already provide sex education. Extending this to primary schools is a step too far.
'In a culture that is obsessed with sex, schools should be one place where children are allowed to get on with life without facing pressure to deal with things they aren't ready for.'
Mr Knight admitted sex education needed a stronger focus on relationships and said he would take 'a lot of persuading' to scrap parents' right to pull their children out of such classes.
Spelling out the dangers of drugs
Children will learn about the dangers of illegal drugs while still at primary school.
Pupils as young as five will learn how to be safe around medicines, household products and needles if they are likely to encounter them out playing or on the way to school.
Children in key stage two, covering ages seven to 11, will begin to discuss cannabis and the dangers of other controlled drugs such as cocaine.
Drugs education must be 'appropriate to the age and developmental stage and prior knowledge of pupils', said the Government's review of drugs education.
The health education charity Life Education, which contributed to the review, said children as young as seven and eight are already learning about drugs.
'If we want to make a real and lasting difference to teenage drug and alcohol misuse, we must reach them early - at primary school,' said a spokesman.
Detailed guidance on what children learn and when will be issued in the coming months.
Schools Minister Baroness Delyth Morgan said: 'There is still more that we can do to reduce harm and protect young people.'
Source: UK Mail