Four-year-old school children should be given sex lessons whether parents agree or not, the Government has been told.
The radical suggestion comes from three groups currently advising the Government on its review of Sex and Relationships Education (SRE).
The charities – Brook, the FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) and the Sex Education Forum – say that all children should be exposed to “gradual education” from a very young age.
A spokesperson for the FPA said children as young as four should learn “the basics” of sex and relationships, just like they do for maths.
There is growing concern that the Government may decide to make SRE mandatory for all primary and secondary schools, even though many critics say that this would have a disastrous effect on young people.
Despite years of ever-more-explicit sex education at ever-younger ages, the reduction in teenage pregnancies is set to fall short of Government targets and sexually transmitted infections have increased among teens.
Currently it is up to head teachers and governors to decide how much sex education their schools provide beyond the compulsory minimum. Parents have a right to remove their children from the non-compulsory elements.
Julie Bentley, Chief Executive of the FPA, insisted: “This is not about teaching four-year-olds how to have sex but teaching them about respecting themselves and others and giving them the confidence to ask questions when they get older and do want to find out more.
“It’s like maths – at primary school children learn the basics so that they can understand more and more complex concepts at a later stage.”
However, families campaigners say that the plans would override the wishes of parents and teachers.
Norman Wells, director of campaign 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.
“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.”