Pupils as young as eleven are being told by the Scottish Government that it is normal to be sexually active, a sex education expert has said.
Professor David Paton told The Herald newspaper that curriculum resources for Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) repeatedly give the impression that 11 to 15 years-olds are having sex.
The professor of Industrial Economics at Nottingham University, who has written extensively on the connection between teenage pregnancy and sex education, made the remarks ahead of a public consultation on a revised RSHP.
Prof Paton observed: “If you look at the material on when it is right to start having sex delivered to 11 to 15-year-olds, it is hard to avoid the impression underage sexual activity is being normalised.
“This is an age group where sex is illegal, and it does state that at one point.
it is hard to avoid the impression underage sexual activity is being normalised
“But one of the schemes they have on human sexuality, aimed at 11 to 15-year-olds, talks about ‘the right to personal autonomy’, telling young people that they ‘have the right to decide on matters about their sexuality.”
He added: “They are free to explore their sexuality in safe and pleasurable ways as long as they do not interfere with someone else’s rights’”. This, he said, “gives the impression that consent is a sufficient condition for engaging in early sexual activity”.
He continued: “There are lots of other examples. The material on condoms, again aimed at 11 to 15-year-olds, says: ‘What should you do if your condom bursts, rips or slips off when you are having sex?’”
“Note this says ‘when’ you are having sex. Again, it normalises underage sexual activity. That is very worrying.”
He also pointed out that there is “little evidence” to support the idea that sex education in schools has “much of an impact on measurable sexual health outcomes”.
little evidence to support the idea that sex education in schools has much of an impact on measurable sexual health outcomes
Prof Paton said sex education in schools, coupled with the availability of free condoms and abortion to underage children, can be linked to cases of serious child exploitation.
“All too often”, he observed, Serious Case Reviews into individual cases of child abuse find “sexual activity involves a much older person.
“And this means both that an opportunity for a safeguarding intervention is missed but also that schools and agencies may be playing a part in facilitating underage sexual activity.”
He concluded: “Sadly, the Scottish scheme does not seem to be aware of this problem. It continues to emphasise confidentiality – i.e. not telling parents – when providing contraception and abortion to minors despite the obvious safeguarding dangers.”
The Scottish Government recently came under fire for commissioning a controversial survey into the sex lives of young people.
Councils have been pushed to gather information through the ‘Health and Wellbeing Census’, which asks teens as young as fifteen shocking sexual questions and primary children intrusive questions about their home life.