Sex-ed to be made compulsory(ish)

// 27 April 2009

Under a somewhat misleading headline, the Guardian informs us that 5-year olds will be getting compulsory sex ed.

Halfway down the article it’s finally clear that PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education), the currently optional element of the school curriculum that aims to teach kids about life, the universe and everything, will be made compulsory. The proposed new curriculum includes lessons on how to manage bank accounts, how to deal with cyber bullying, how to resist gangs and, of course, all that stuff about sex and bodies. Sounds eminently sensible to me.

5 year olds won’t be rolling condoms on bananas quite yet, though. Instead they’ll be learning about how their bodies will change as they go through childhood. At 9 they’ll be learning about what to expect from puberty, at 11 they’ll learn the basics of human reproduction and not until secondary school will they get the full on sex, contraception, STD and relationship stuff (including about homosexuality and civil partnerships).

Confusingly, sex education will both be ‘mandatory’ for the first time for secondary school kids, but opt-outable. Actually, they’ll be allowing faith schools to teach sex and relationships ‘in the context of their religion’. But parents will still be able to pull their kids out. Apparently, 0.04% currently do so, mostly on religious grounds.

Shorter Mail: they’re teaching kids to be gay!

Shorter Telegraph: teach them when they’re grown up

Comments From You

Kirsty // Posted 27 April 2009 at 5:46 pm

Of course learning about civil partnerships will make them gay! Just like learning about World War II turns kids into fascists, right? I’m so sick of hearing that learning about gay couples makes kids gay, or that allowing gay people to adopt will mean they end up with gay kids. It’s not as though learning about straight people and having straight parents made me (or any of my queer friends) straight…

I think compulsory sex ed is a good thing – it’s important that children understand, not just the mechanics, but the emotional aspects of sex and relationships by the time they’re old enough to be having them.

Shea // Posted 27 April 2009 at 6:41 pm

Well that’s hardly a change. Why shouldn’t five year olds be learning about sex ed? In Germany & Holland they get an introduction to sex education at 6 & 7 and the whole deal BEFORE they hit puberty. So they are braced to understand what is happening to their bodies and the urges and emotions they will feel. They also have frank discussion about the emotional consquences of sex. Why does our country have to remain so backward and puritanical.

Jas // Posted 27 April 2009 at 7:52 pm

I think they ought to be teaching children about the cost of having a child, the likelihood of them splitting up with their partner if they happen to get pregnant young (of course, I’m not saying that ALL teenage couples will split up), the missed opportunities in life, the pain of labour etc. I really think, when I hear girls at my school talking, that merely physical stuff about how reproduction occurs and contraception is just a laugh to a lot of teenage girls.

And also, girls need to be taught about self-respect and not conforming to the media pressure on body image.

Troika21 // Posted 27 April 2009 at 7:55 pm


Its a pity they’re allowing some people to back out of the 21st century though.

I remember the sex-ed classes I had (only a few years ago), they were mostly about scaring us all into not getting some STI with grotesque pictures (though I thought it was cool!).

Looking back, I get the feeling that the instructors wanted to teach us alot more, but were stuck with the germs.

But I also remember when we just started getting them at the beginning of High School – nobody could stop tittering at the mention of ‘nipple’ or ‘penis’ – preparing them from a young age will definitaly help overcome cultural inhibitions.

Anne Onne // Posted 27 April 2009 at 8:38 pm

There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids sex education. I would argue that parents shouldn’t be allowed to exempt their kids from this. They’re not allowed to exempt kids from maths, say, because we know that maths is a necessary skill in today’s world, and that illiteracy just because your parents don’t believe in maths would be a cruel thing for the government to allow.

Who can argue that sex education, especially seeing how sex affects life in very real ways, from pregnancy to abortions, to knowing when you’re ready, how to combat peer pressure etc isn’t as necessary? What if it’s these childrens’ right to know the facts, regardless of how uncomfortable that makes some parents?

Parents, not talking to your kids about sex will not stop them from having sex, or being gay if they are, or whatever.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 27 April 2009 at 11:01 pm

Once again the government attempts to appease right wing and left wing elements but ends up pleasing no one. This is what happens when sex education is perceived as sexual politics! But then human sexuality is all about sexual politics and especially control and punishment of female sexual expression, when it does not adhere to rigid patriarchal myths.

All girls and boys need to be taught sex education and relationships from the minute they enter primary school. Gender socialisation into narrow defined ideas concerning feminine and masculine behaviour starts at a very early age and sexual scripts are no different.

Sexuality is more than the rudimentary biological reproductive system and neither is sexual expression a narrow one wherein male sexuality is deemed to be assertive, dominant and aggressive whilst female sexuality is passive, responsive and an adjunct to male sexuality.

Not all sexual expression is about penetration but one would not know this if we believe media representation of what supposedly passes for human sexual activity.

Neither is human sexuality about supposedly male teenagers being ruled by their male (sic) hormones going into overdrive. But then given pornography is easily accessible and mainstream, it is not surprising so many teenage boys believe females exist solely to sexually service uncontrollable (sic) male sexual needs!

rita // Posted 27 April 2009 at 11:14 pm

I think sex education could be started in primary between 6 or 7 and 8. I started learning about the reproduction system in primary and i am from africa. Attractions of opposite or same sex begins earlier around that age. Why is it being left till secondary. When i think of defilement, peadophilia, which some experience at a tender age, would it not be worth starting the education earlier? I am surprised some parents are against it when the risks are greater eg, HIV/AIDS, pregnancies, abortions, etc..

Samantha // Posted 28 April 2009 at 9:03 am

Another stunning piece of journalism from The Mail there *eyeroll*.

I find the very idea that 9 is considered too you to teach children about puberty so offensive. If 9 is too young because children of that age are “innocent” and “don’t need to know”, then clearly those of us who hit puberty before age 9 were improper, impure and not “innocent” enough. Why should those children be made to feel ashamed of their bodies by ignorant, moronic and disturbingly ill-informed Daily Mail readers?

Oh, and my friends and I were never taught about homosexuality at school but shock horror, we’re all still queer! Funnily enough I was taught about plenty of other things that I expressed little extra-curricular interested in, including heterosexuality…

Ellie // Posted 28 April 2009 at 2:10 pm

I too am in favour of earlier sex ed without the possibility for parents to opt their kids out. I don’t know about anyone else here but as a child of 8 or so I was playing sexual games with my best friends already, I doubt todays kids are much different, it’s just their parents don’t know about it.

Laura // Posted 28 April 2009 at 5:13 pm

@Ellie, me too. It’s weird how no one seems to remember this when they grow up – all of a sudden children are entirely asexual. I guess there’s the whole paedophilia panic thing when it comes to talking about children having sexual feelings or being sexual, but we have to recognise that it happens, and we need to ensure they are safe, and grow up with a healthy, repsonisble attitude towards sex and each other.

Wisrutta Atthakor // Posted 28 April 2009 at 6:08 pm

I totally agree that sex education should be compulsory, but it’s quite worrying that faith schools would be free to preach against homosexuality and contraception (link to: Children should be taught sex education and taught to be able to have responsible discussions with their peers.

I remember when I was in highschool in an international school in Portugal and we had mixed-class (girls & boys together) sex education, where we could learn about and discuss sex responsibly as young adults. I even remember we came up with a little ‘skit’ to portray some people’s ignorant attitudes towards HIV-AIDS. We also watched videos of other children and teenagers discussing issues related to sex and homosexuality, etc. I think it was very constructive and must definitely be encouraged more.

Sabre // Posted 29 April 2009 at 3:54 pm

@ Samantha

I agree with your comment. I went into puberty at about 10 and started menstruating when I was 12, before high school. We had our first sex education lesson on periods while I was having a particularly heavy and painful one. I remmber the teacher saying they could be painful, and I thought ‘no s**t, Miss!’ My sister had her first period when she was 10. So 9 years is perfectly appropriate, although there may be a case for girls receiving sex-ed earlier than boys due to earlier development/maturity.

I honestly can’t remember how I learned about sex. It wasn’t from my parents and it wasn’t from school or friends. Still, being early developers, my sis and I would have really freaked out finding armpit hair and menstruating without any sex knowledge. And it always made me sad that a muslim girl class-mate wasn’t allowed to have sex-ed lessons. As if that would protect her from her body or something.

Someone once said to me that parents don’t want their kids to know about sex because then they know what their parents have been doing and it’s embarassing. So maybe we need to educate adults too that sex isn’t something to be ashamed of.

rita // Posted 29 April 2009 at 4:48 pm

I have heard about children who have been sexually abused at such a tender age, and not known that it was wrong till it was too late. I blame the culture for being so secretive and not openly educating every one especially through the media which seems to have a wider scope. Children and adults need to be sensitised and desensitised. How does a child know they are or have been wronged when they don’t see anything wrong? Some parents are more afraid of the negative results of sex. Guess it’s a wide topic.

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