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Monday, 24 October 2011

Primary School Sex Education

So, ok I know I have written on this before but this time it was flagged up by 'Christian Concern'. Now, I know what you're thinking, but don't dismiss it just because it was raised by 'them'. Today the Lords are debating the issue of sex education in primary schools. CCN says this:

Sex education campaigners, and some backbench Peers, want to make sex education compulsory in primary schools by forcing a vote at the Report Stage of the Education Bill on Monday 24 October. At present primary schools are not forced to teach sex education, yet if it becomes part of the national curriculum then highly expicit resources are likely to be used for children as young as five.

This concerns me I have to say. When I wrote about this issue before it was in reponse to a Catholic blog where I was concerned by the  extreme reaction of some parents to the issue. However I still find myself concerned with it on a personal level. As a parent, and perhaps as a Christian parent, I want to protect my childrens childhood. We live in a society where kids are exposed to sexual images in advertising, on the TV and elsewhere from such a young age. Of course it isn't just sex, it's violence, swearing and so on, too. I feel a bit like Mary Whitehouse as I write this, and perhaps there is still a place for someone like her, well not perhaps at all... There IS more of a need for someone like her now. The 9 O'clock watershed seems non-existant anymore and I have even turned off breakfast radio on occasion as I have been concerned about the discussions.

Don't get me wrong, I am no prude, and I do extol the benefits of sex education. Regular readers will know my background, I was not a 'no sex before marriage type', and in fact I got pregnant at a young age. (I did get decent sex education at secondary school - I was just filled with the idiocy and arrogance of youth and was having a good time...) BUT... I think it is so wrong that our kids to exposed to so much at such a young age. Thankfully we live in a small rural community and so they are quite protected here.

What worries me about this issue, is firstly, the fact that schools will have no choice over whether they teach it or not (and this is to kids from the age of 5). I know, living in a small community that the lives of my children are very different to those living in large towns or inner cities. The experiences of kids within more urban areas, more naturally, are exposed to things earlier and more frequently than those in more sheltered areas. Schools are different and they should be allowed to make decisions on this based on their own demographic, their own pupils. Too many of these decisions are made at a national level and foisted down the line without taking into account individual circumstances.

Secondly I worry about what they will teach them. The Christian Institue have produced a report here. showing various 'approved' literature. I am sure this is produced to make their point, but much of what they show worries me. I have no problem with kids being taught the facts, from a reasonable age and when it is appropriate, and with the correct terms, but really do they need to know about m*stubation and where the clit*ris is? (I am probably opening myself up to numerous spam bots here, hence the *s and not because I am being  a prude!)

Lastly, I really don't think this will make a jot of differnce with the teenage pregnancy problem in this country. Most teenage pregnancies are over the age of 13 anyway, by which stage the kids will have had sex education at secondary school. My own opinion is that whilst there are a minority of kids who really may not know the consequences of sex, the majority do know the risks of getting pregnant. The problem is no different to 50 or 100 years ago, we still get pregnant in the same way as we always did. It's just that now it is so easy to do it! It's hardly surprising that as more and more kids are experimenting with sex before marriage or even just at a younger age, statistically the numbers of kids getting pregnant are going to be higher.

And thats before I even include my Christian views as to what they are taught about when to have sex, and whether they should be taught about 'waiting' or what the bible tells us about sex.

Really, do we need to expose our primary school kids to this? At our local village primary they cover it in Class 4, (which includes years 5-6) which for our local area is absolutely perfect. They chose what to cover and how, according to the kids present. What is so wrong with that? Why does it need to be dictated from governement down...?


Emma said...

Hi Red

I share your concerns. One difficulty is that those against these particular proposals can be caricatured as uptight moralists who think kids don't need any sort of sex education whatsoever. Instead, as you've argued, the debate is not just about sex ed per se, but who does it and what this involves. We read a lot about how parents need to take more responsibility for their kids, but this can take the decision out of their hands and deskill them, rather than equipping their kids.

Suem said...

I think we sometimes make the mistake of confusing innocence and ignorance. I support age appropriate sex education from about five or six years onwards. I think teenagers are more likely to talk maturely rather than just get silly and giggle if they are used to such lessons. I also know that children hear stuff in the playground, my son asked me what "Wanking" was when he was seven after hearing it at school and gave me two or three colourful versions of what he had been told by friends.
Of course young children shouldn't be shown "explicit" materials, but as soon as they are old enough to ask questions, they should be answered in appropriate ways- not fobbed off.
I was sexually abused from about four years of age. I couldn't tell anyone because I lived in an age where for a child even to use words describing private parts was considered wrong. I wasn't supposed to know those words, and once I did, I knew I wasn't supposed to use them. How did I have the confidence or vocabulary to speak to a teacher or parent?

Good, sensible, age appropriate sex education taught professionally answers the questions children already have and it helps destroy myths and rumours. It is not abusive, it equips them to speak out if they are facing abuse. I believe the evidence shows that countries which introduce sex ed at an early age do have lower rates of teenage pregnancy - though you'd have to check that one.

Red said...

Thanks for the comments ladies. And Sue, particularly, thanks for being so open.
I am so sorry for what you suffered, and I think it highlights why it is so key to get this right. I have to admit I hadn't even considered how sex education or a lack of it, might affect an abused child.

I haven't yet heard what the outcome of Mondays talks were, but I will aim to update this when I know...