Saturday, 5 July 2008

Sex education to begin at age 4

The Daily Mail reports that Children as young as four are set to be given compulsory sex education in primary school. They will be taught the names of body parts and basic ideas about different relationships.

Government advisers claim that 'gradual education' from such a young age would help to stop children from rushing into sex when they are older. They argue that the sex education that children receive in science classes does not go far enough.

But the recommendations caused a storm of protest yesterday, with family campaigners claiming that the views of parents and teachers are being ignored. Norman Wells, director of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: 'What this is really all about is the sex education establishment trying to force schools to do something many parents - and many teachers - are uncomfortable with.'

At present, primary heads and governors decide whether or not to provide sex education and what it should involve beyond the compulsory science requirements laid down by the national curriculum. They must have a policy on whether or not they provide sex education. If they do provide it, usually in personal, social and health education (PSHE) classes, parents have the right to withdraw their children.

But the FPA - formerly the Family Planning Association - the sexual health advice service Brook and the Sex Education Forum are recommending the introduction of compulsory lessons. They are taking part in a Government review of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in primary and secondary schools. The charities sit on a panel, which is currently examining 'the right age to begin teaching what the key messages are and content that young people should receive at each key stage'. They have pre-empted publication of their final report later this month and publicly announced their recommendation for statutory sex education from primary school onwards. This would bring sex and relationship education on to the curriculum alongside other compulsory subjects such as maths and English. Brook chief executive Simon Blake said: 'All the evidence shows that if you start sex and relationships education early - before children start puberty, before they feel sexual attraction - they start having sex later. They are much more likely to use contraception and practise safe sex.'

Anna Martinez, head of the Sex Education Forum, confirmed they are recommending making PSHE statutory to give it 'the high status it deserves as an essential part of all children's education'.

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