Sex education resources should be licensed to ensure they are age-appropriate, an MP has said, following concern among parents about “inappropriate” materials.
Andrea Leadsom’s comments come in the same month that a report by The Christian Institute highlighted shocking resources being pushed by public bodies for use in schools.
One such resource encourages primary school pupils to learn about anal intercourse, oral sex and prostitution.
Mrs Leadsom, the MP for South Northamptonshire, asked if the Education Secretary Michael Gove was “aware of the great concern of some parents about the inappropriate material being shown to their five-year-old and seven-year-old children under the guise of sex and relationship education”.
She added: “Will he take steps to start a licensing regime to ensure the material being shown is age-appropriate?”
Education Minister Tim Loughton replied, saying he shared some of her concerns. He noted the current Government review into personal, social and health education, of which sex and relationship education “is a key part”, and said he would “welcome” the MP’s “further input into the review”.
Mr Loughton also commented: “It is crucial that whatever we do should be age-appropriate”.
Mrs Leadsom has also suggested a system of parents choosing whether to ‘opt-in’ their children to sex education, rather than the current ‘opt-out’ system, in response to a campaign by mums in Northampton.
One mum said material such as the controversial Channel 4 DVD Living and Growing should not be shown to primary school children.
Emma Clarke, who has a six-year-old son, said: “I think parents need to be made more aware of what is being taught in schools.”
She continued: “If most people actually viewed what their children were being taught I think they would be quite shocked. In my opinion, showing children this sort of sexual imagery is a form of sexual abuse.
“What we are worried about is that the material is showing children how to have sex. There have already been instances of children going home and typing the words they have learnt into their web browsers when they have got home and have brought up all sorts of pornographic material.”
Among other images Living and Growing shows a naked couple chasing each other around a bed and then having sex, while a voice-over gives a detailed description of the action.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said it had run a programme of support for parents over the past eight years including awareness sessions in individual schools to address specific sex education issues.
He said: “Across the county in the past year, 1,000 parents will have attended one of these events.”
The Christian Institute’s report on sex education showed resources recommended by public bodies, mostly local councils, for use by those primary schools that choose to teach sex education.
One of the resources helps five-year-olds to identify the clitoris, and another tells seven-year-olds that sex is like tickling or skipping.
An educational video produced by the BBC featuring full frontal adult nudity is being pushed to children aged as young as seven.
Commenting last month, Mike Judge, Head of Communications at The Christian Institute, said: “Most parents would be deeply upset if these materials were used with their primary-aged child.”
Earlier this month leading academic Professor Brenda Almond slammed explicit sex education materials for youngsters, saying children aged five to eight are “simply not emotionally ready for this sort of information.”
Prof Almond, commenting on the materials highlighted in The Christian Institute’s report, warned: “There are comic-book-style pictures of different sexual positions, cartoon explanations of masturbation and orgasm, and crayoned drawings that are supposed to explain the difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality — with anal sex getting a special mention.”
Her conclusion was clear: “For five-year-olds! So much for an age of innocence”.
The professor continued: “Teenagers can legally drive a car when they are 17, but we wouldn’t dream of starting to teach them how to do it when they are five.
“So why is it suddenly different when it comes to sex?”
She concluded: “Answer: it isn’t”.