Sex education plans ‘sideline’ parents

Calls for compulsory in-depth Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) at school threaten to “take parents out of the driving seat”, campaigners say.

The criticism came as the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG), which is responsible for advising the Government on its teenage pregnancy strategy, published its latest recommendations.

The TPIAG’s report says that all schools, including faith schools, should be required to “teach all aspects of SRE within the context of relationships in an anti-discriminatory way”.

The report adds: “contraception, abortion and homosexuality are all legal in this country and therefore all children and young people should be able to learn the correct facts”.

It also says that current broadcasting rules ensuring that condoms are not advertised before nine o’clock, when they are likely to be seen by children, are “restrictive and outdated”.

It says that television adverts containing “positive sexual health messages including the advertising of condoms” should be shown before the watershed.

The Government recently launched a review of sex education which is expected to report soon. According to its ‘SRE & Parents’ leaflet, schools can currently decide what sex education to provide beyond the compulsory minimum, and must involve parents in developing their policies. Parents can withdraw their children if they want to.

But groups such as the FPA (formerly known as the Family Planning Association) and Brook say that comprehensive, mandatory sex education should begin with children as young as four years old.

Ministers have insisted that advice and information will be available to parents to help them stay informed of what their children are learning at school.

However, Norman Wells of Family and Youth Concern warned that parents would simply be forced to comply with whatever the Government decides their children should be taught.

“This is really all about taking parents out of the driving seat and putting the state in their place,” he said.

He added: “The teenage pregnancy strategy, with its reliance on sex education and confidential contraception services, has failed.

“To see the Independent Advisory Group persisting in its calls for yet more of the same calls to mind Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

“The last thing children need is to see condoms advertised on daytime television.

“As many have found to their cost, the effectiveness of condoms is limited and they offer very little protection at all against some infections.

“The real need is not to normalise condom use, but to normalise keeping sex within a faithful and life-long marriage.”