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Children 'to be given compulsory sex education from age four'

Sarah Harris, Daily Mail, UK, 05th July 2008

Nursery Charities have said children should be taught sex education from age four.

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".

As the mother of a 12-year-old girl, I feel helpless rage at morally bankrupt 'sex education' that just encourages under-age flings

But Mr. Wells said there is no evidence to suggest that starting sex education at the age of four would reduce sexually transmitted infections and abortion rates among teenagers.

He added: "It's quite extraordinary that the FPA and Brook should be calling on the Government to impose something on every child in every school that has no proven benefit whatsoever."

"Schools already have to have a sex education policy, but that policy must be developed in close consultation with parents, and schools must be sensitive to the wishes of parents."

"But the FPA want to take parents out of the equation and remove discretion from schools."

"It's vital that parents' views should continue to be respected and that schools should remain sensitive to parental concerns on such a controversial issue."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families insisted that no final decision has been made by ministers on the subject yet.

He said: "Effective sex and relationships education is essential for young people to make safe and healthy choices about their lives and prevent early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections."

"That is why Government is currently reviewing the delivery of SRE in schools to improve the quality and consistency of provision to young people."

"The steering group, jointly chaired by Schools Minister Jim Knight and a member of the UK Youth Parliament, will make recommendations to Government later this month."

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