News that the Scout Association is jumping on the sex education bandwagon has been slammed by a columnist writing in the Times.
Ross Clark asks: “Can there be a youth left in Britain who doesn’t know how to roll on a condom, or that having sex without contraception is liable to result in babies?
“Such is the prevalence of sex education in schools that it seems to me that any British teenager, unless educated at home and a member of some obscure religious sect, already has sufficient knowledge by the age of 14 to lead a UN birth control programme in a small African nation.”
Yet in spite of millions being poured into sex education schemes, Mr Clark writes that the pregnancy rate among under-16s “has hardly shifted at all, and nor has the overall number of pregnancies. Britain retains, after the US, the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the developed world.
“Pregnancies might be even higher without the morning-after Pill, now handed out to 12-year-olds.
“To judge by the rising rates of herpes and genital warts reported by the Health Protection Agency, the amount of unprotected sex between teenagers is sharply on the rise.”
As a result, says Mr Clark, sex education lobby groups like the FPA (formerly known as the Family Planning Association) are now calling for yet more sex education, beginning with children as young as four.
But the attempts are misguided, he argues: “What, of course, has never occurred to the sex education lobby is that children might be being fed too much information on sex – to the point at which material designed to dissuade them from engaging in early sexual activity has the opposite effect.”
Mr Clark argues that explicit advertising campaigns and sex education schemes simply give teenagers the impression that early sexual activity is expected of them.
Describing one campaign from the eighties, he wrote: “The subliminal message to teenagers was: ‘This is what you should be up to – if you aren’t, there’s something wrong with you.'”
He concludes: “By wasting time repeating lessons that their charges have already done several times in school, scout leaders will be stopping them from learning something that they won’t get elsewhere: just find me where on the national curriculum it tells you how to pitch a tent and tie a reef knot.”
Mr Clark’s column follows calls from Government minister Jim Knight for compulsory sex education for children at both primary and secondary level.
The results of a Government review of sex and relationships education delivery in schools are expected soon.