Sex education in primary schools: too much, too soon?
The Commons Education Select Committee has called for Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to be a core part of primary education.
The committee’s proposal has also been echoed by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England in its report this week following high-profile child sexual exploitation cases.
According to the MPs’ review, the committee was concerned that youngsters, in particular, interpret abusive, harmful and exploitative behaviour as normal and could not identify consent or differentiate abusive relationships.
Currently, sex education at primary level comprises only of basic biology taught in the science curriculum.
The recommendation will undeniably reassure campaigners, including the Terence Higgins Trust, who have long fought for SER to be made mandatory.
However, with sex education at primary level still taboo, the report may struggle to be well received generally.
According to a 2011 poll by baby product website babychild.org.uk, which surveyed 1,700 parents of children aged five to 11, those against sex education in primary school believed it was up to parents to educate their children, whilst others cited the inappropriateness of teaching sex in schools.
Whilst we should consider the innocence of Britain’s children, thought must turn to our society which has become saturated with sexuality. The latest technologies are now ingrained in our children, who, with smartphones aplenty, are rarely more than a click away from provocative content.
This increasing norm makes SRE crucial in the earlier stages of schooling and to ignore it is little more than irresponsible.
With sexual abuse and child-on-child sexual abuse also increasing in recent times, it is paramount that educational authorities and parents do more to teach children about the norms and boundaries of sexual development in order to make them aware of abuse and the importance of reporting it.
It must also be heeded that for children growing up in broken homes or moved around in foster care, without access to this information, they are often the ones most at risk of abuse, teenage pregnancy and exploitation in later life.
With cases like Rotherham not isolated, it is evident that children are neither learning basic SRE at school nor at home. It is fundamental that children receive stable sex education in school early if we are to safeguard how they behave later in their youth.
While adults may be immature when it comes to dealing with the facts, thankfully our children are not. Heightened education in relation to tobacco has seen a decline in youth usage. SRE at primary level must, therefore, be an educational and societal development to keep up with, and impact on, our changing times.