Ahead of yesterday’s announcement by the UK Government that children will be taught about healthy adult relationships from the age of four – with sex education made compulsory in all secondary schools – Christian Concern’s Andrea Williams, above, railed against the plan.
CC’s Chief Executive, according to The Telegraph, said that teaching Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to four-year-olds would be “devastating” and risks:
Robbing them of their innocence. Children of four are should not be introduced to this. Schools need to be safe places where the innocence of children is protected.
Very often sex education introduces children to concepts far too soon, destroying their innocence. This is not something that the state should be laying down. We are very concerned about this.
This puts her at odds with the Church of England, which has backed SRE. One of its senior bishops and leading authority on education has said that the sexualisation of children means they can no longer be “shielded”.
The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, has urged Christians to move with the times and accept that “what might have held in previous eras” is no longer the most effective way of keeping our children safe and preparing them for life in the modern world.
He said that while it is “only natural” to want to “shield children as long as we possibly can”, but added that parents must not ignore the reality that “even primary school children are becoming exposed to online pornography.”
In a written statement on Wednesday, the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, said existing statutory guidance made no mention of modern issues.
The statutory guidance for sex and relationships education was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated. It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyberbullying, ‘sexting’ and staying safe online.
Sex education is compulsory only for secondary school pupils in local authority-run schools. Now all secondary schools, including academies, private schools and religious free schools, must make the age-appropriate sex and relationship education mandatory.
Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from the lessons. Schools will have flexibility in how they deliver the subjects and they can develop an approach that is “sensitive to the needs of the local community” and religious beliefs.
Stephen Evans, the campaigns director of the National Secular Society, said:
This sounds like children from minority faith groups will be totally left behind by the government’s proposals. Under this approach, children who happen to be born into conservative religious groups will still be without proper sex and relationships education.
The British Humanist Association said the announcement was a step in the right direction, but added that the government should ensure children in faith schools were not deprived of age-appropriate sex and relationships education.
The BHA’s chief executive, Andrew Copson said:
A child’s access to accurate, evidence-based and relevant information, designed for the simple purpose of keeping them safe, should not be dependent on their religious or non-religious background, nor on the type of school to which they happen to have been sent. It should be clear to everyone that either all children have a right to this education, or no such right exists.
According to the BBC, Laura Hannah, the Education and Training manager for leading UK sexual health charity Brook, says the new ruling will impact greatly on children from communities where sex is a taboo subject in school and at home.
We work in lots of faith school where young people tell us sex isn’t spoken about at home. We respect their values but what we want to do is give them information so that when they are ready to have a relationship they can understand the risks and they understand what’s available to them.
Brook provides sex education that is tailored specifically to faith schools, avoiding certain topics when talking to students. Said Hannah:
If we are working within a faith school, we are often requested not to talk about contraception or condom use. What we will do is talk about sexual health services that are available to young people in their area and what’s there, so if they chose to use it they’re able to access that information.
Hannah is keen for a change in language to include LGBTQ pupils in the conversation.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn