Lifestyle, United Kingdom, Youth

Sex education pending

One in four schools in England does not provide a good quality sex education resulting in English student and not acquiring an adequate knowledge about sexual relationships.  Furthermore, 59% of parents vehemently object to schools teaching this subject to children of such a young age.

Ane Bores

The years of censorship and repression are behind us, alongside the ashes of all those who blindly fought for their own liberty and ideals, but despite being able to enjoy better living conditions and having greater access to education and culture, there are many 21st century societies that have still left certain matters unresolved, due to the many taboos that have still managed to survive the test of time.  Such is the case with the subject of sex which continues to make many parents and teachers in the United Kingdom uncomfortable and consequently unable to speak to children and teenagers about.

In fact, according to a recent study posted on the website BabyChild, more than half of the parents questioned believe that English schools should not teach sex education from such a young age.

This result came to light after a recent proposal put forward by the conservative MP Nadie Dorries called the Sex Education Bill.  Alarmed by the figures from the Office for National Statistics, which in 2007 put Great Britain at the head of Western Europe for teenage pregnancies, it is now found that girls between 13 and 16 receive additional sex education classes in schools, in order to obtain better information and advice.

But the boys, like the girls, should also receive good quality sex education.

The Sex Education Forum, a network of organisations under the protection of the National Children’s Office, points out that low teenage pregnancy rates in countries such as Holland, France and Germany are essentially due to the fact that the young are educated about sex from an early age and in much more explicit detail.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom sex education is given at a later age, is of poorer quality and overly biological.

This is primarily due to the fact that at present what is known as PSHE, Personal Social and Health Education, which includes the teaching of sex and is not an obligatory subject countrywide, despite being part of the National Curriculum.

As such, according to Ofsted inspectors, sex education could be improved in one in four schools in England.

Sex and Age

But, what is the main reason behind 59% of mothers and fathers opposing the introduction of PSHE in English schools?  According to BabyChild, which took statements from 1,700 parents with children between 5 and 11 years old, most of those who objected to this teaching method (41%), did so because they believe that it is inappropriate to teach children about sex from such a young age.

28% think that it should be the parents who decide on this matter, 27% believe that there is no need for children to learn about sex and 22% think that these lessons could encourage them to ask more questions.

So, just 18% of the respondents were in favour of the teaching of sex education in schools from an early age, and the remaining 23% were completely impartial.

What is more, according to 48% of parents, 13 is a more appropriate age to start sex education in schools.

But this study, as well as showing the degree of conformity of parents to this new educational proposal, also served to reflect the parents own attitudes towards sex and to check whether or not it continues to be one of the greatest taboos in today’s society.

That is, on being asked these questions, around 70% of the parents felt embarrassed or did not know what to say.

A little more than biology

Be that as it may, what is certain is that English schools could be much better than they are at the moment.  According to the investigation that Ofsted carried out in 2010, in which it analysed the PSHE taught in 165 schools around the country (92 Primary schools and 73 Secondary schools), 25% of these schools did not reach the approval rate.

The main problem lay in English students having a good knowledge on the biology of sex but not on sexual relationships themselves, in which their understanding was really inadequate.

Furthermore, although this subject has been taught for more than a decade in most schools, many teachers still feel embarrassed or have a serious lack of knowledge and experience in this area.  As a result, there are students who do not have the opportunity to explore the nature, the risks and the negotiations of sex in depth.

Educational reform

As was previously highlighted, PSHE is not obligatory in schools in England unlike other countries in the United Kingdom, although it is part of the National Curriculum.

As such, parents are at complete liberty to remove their children from sex education classes if they consider it appropriate to do so.

It is currently only obligatory for children to attend sexual reproduction classes in secondary school within the remit of Natural Sciences.  However, following the results obtained by Ofsted, the British government is setting out to make certain reforms to make PHSE obligatory within the National Curriculum and to therefore ensure that the young receive a good quality sex education.

(Translated by Emily Russell – email: )

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