August 27, 2008

Sex Lessons Call in Primary Schools

By John Roberts Education Correspondent

It has publicly appealed to the Government to make classes on relationships and sexual health mandatory in every school.The call was made yesterday in a letter to a national newspaper signed by a group of Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrats MPs along with the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group.The letter published in the Daily Telegraph says: "Ofsted have reported that the provision of good sex and relationship education is still very patchy, with too many young girls reaching their first period without knowing what is happening to their body."International evidence suggests that high-quality sex and relationship education that puts sex in its proper context, that starts early enough to make a difference and that gives youngsters the confidence and ability to make well- informed decisions helps young people delay their first sexual experience and leads to lower teenage pregnancy levels."Britain currently has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe and figures suggest that rising numbers of young people are being diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases or having abortions.There were 42,784 abortions involving teenage girls last year and 32,000 new teenage cases of chlamydia.Under existing rules, schoolchildren must be taught the biological facts of reproduction, usually in science classes. Every school must have a sex education policy, but there is no statutory requirement for teaching about relationships and the social and emotional side of sexual behaviour.The MPs, led by Chris Bryant, Labour MP for the Rhondda, say this must change.The letter adds: "We call on the Government to guarantee appropriate sex and relationship education in every primary and secondary school by putting personal, social and health education on a statutory basis as part of the national curriculum."Schools Minister Jim Knight is currently working on a review of sex and relationship education which will report later this year.However, the chairman of a Yorkshire-based education campaign group says the move would distract schools from teaching the basics and destroy pupils' childhoods.The chairman of the York- based Campaign for a Real Education, Nick Seaton, said: "The more sex education has been introduced into schools, the worse the problems with underage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases have got which suggests that it is not working."I don't think many parents would want primary schools to be spending time with youngsters on sex education. If standards in schools are going to improve then schools have to be allowed to focus on the basics."Mr Seaton added: "It just seems to be a daft idea. It risks sexualising children at a younger age by introducing this kind of sexual education into primary school classes when it will be far too early for a lot of them. It could destroy a pupil's childhood."I think sex education is a distraction from a school's primary purpose of teaching children the basics. Sex education should be the job of parents and not primary schools."The campaign group the Family Education Trust also says there is no evidence that teenage pregnancy rates are reduced by starting sex education at an early age.

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