Thousands of young Scouts could be told to “feel what a condom is like” as part of the Scout Association’s new sex education programme.
The programme is aimed at children between the ages of 14 and 18, but critics warn that the programme will fuel child sexualisation.
The Scouts’ programme recommends a number of activities for leaders to use with the young people in their Troops, including a sexually transmitted infections card game.
In another game, called the “fluid exchange game”, plastic cups and food colouring will be used to show how quickly fluid and infection can spread.
But Patricia Morgan, a sociologist and author, said: “Local Scout groups are not the right environment for even more sexualisation of our children.
“Parents send their children to these kind of activities to enjoy themselves and have fun in very healthy and innocent ways, not to come home with a pocketful of condoms.
“We have done nothing since the introduction of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in 1998 but force-feed young children and teenagers information they do not need about sex, and the result has been ever higher teenage pregnancies and soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases.”
And Anastasia de Waal, from think-tank Civitas, said: “Even among parents who welcome sex education, the feeling may be that it is more appropriate at school than in after-school settings.”
Health Protection Agency figures show that the UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections in Europe, with under-25s the most likely group to contract an STI.
The Scout Association said that all scout groups will have access to material for the course but insisted that it was up to individual scout leaders to decide whether or not to run the programme.
Chief Scout Bear Grylls defended the programme, saying: “This programme is about getting the right information to young people to help them make smart decisions about their relationships.”
He added: “We want to help young people become confident, clued up and aware. My message is – make your own mind up and don’t let others do it for you. We only get one body, so respect it and people will respect you.”
In 2008 scout leaders were told to give condoms to the teenagers in their Troops and consider trips to family planning clinics.
The Scout Association release guidance saying that leaders should provide condoms “if they believe the young person is very likely to begin or continue having intercourse with or without contraception”.
Much of the guidance dealt with the 14 to 18 age group, although it said that younger scouts should be provided with information about sexual health and contraceptives if they asked for it.