Sex & relationships education in schools (England & Wales) - tell the Government what you think....

(60 Posts)
MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 20-Mar-13 15:35:01


Do you agree with how and when sex and relationships education (SRE) is taught in schools, and - if not - what do you think can be done to improve it? We've been asked by The Sex Education Forum (SEF) to draw your attention to the current Government consultation on the National Curriculum.

The SEF says that the proposals in this consultation make no change to the status of SRE or PSHE in schools in terms of support or funding.

In fact the SEF says a closer look at the proposed curriculum reveals that the names for external genitalia have been omitted from the list of body parts taught to children at Key Stage 1; that the term 'puberty' has been left out of both primary and secondary school curricula (and only referenced in the phrase "growing into adults"); and that the terms 'adolescence', 'foetal development', 'fertilisation' and 'sexual health' have been removed from the Key Stage 3 curriculum entirely, and replaced with "the effect of drugs on behaviour, health and life processes" and "the structure and function of male and female reproductive organs" without details of hormones. This in effect, argues the SEF, delays the teaching of contraception until Key Stage 4 when pupils are 14-16.

What are your thoughts on the proposed changes to SRE teaching in schools? Is 14-16 too late to introduce the teaching of contraception? What about omitting the integral stages of 'puberty' and 'adolescence' from science terminology in schools?

One in 3 young people says their SRE is "poor" or "very poor" (Sex Education Forum, 2008), and around one in four young people says they don't get any SRE in school at all; of those that do, around a quarter (26%) say their SRE teacher isn't able to teach it well (Brook survey 2011). A Mumsnet survey in 2011 told us that a very high proportion of parents (98%) are happy for their children to attend SRE lessons and that 89% of parents think SRE should start in primary schools, from the ages of 4 to 11 years. Furthermore 90% think there should be a statutory duty on all schools, including faith schools and academies (currently able to opt-out), to deliver comprehensive SRE.

If you want to engage with the consultation, it closes on 16th April and you can submit your responses via this link. You may also, of course, wish to comment on other aspects of the curriculum consultation; as ever, do please use this thread to let us know what you think.


apu123 Thu 21-Mar-13 10:20:11

Well, logging in took forever but now I'm here, I have one simple thought really. That is that education on matters of sexuality should commence as early as possible and we should not be afraid to use appropriate language for body parts or activities. Sexuality is a fact of human existence and we should not treat it as a secret or something to be ashamed of. This only creates psychological problems, stress and an increased risk of entering into uninformed relationships and behaviours. It also serves to deny people their rights as humans and limits what has come to be called, their sexual citizenship. If people are squeamish or carry particular prejudices about sexuality, they should not be in the job of providing information to young people (or anyone else for that matter). Sexuality is just one more aspect of people's lives and should be treated as such.

plum100 Thu 21-Mar-13 21:40:50

Puberty - happens to everyone
Penis/labia - correct terms
Sexual Health - as important as any physical/emotional health.

Why are they all being omitted? Ridiculous. Every one will experience these things and therefore should be educated about them- some of it from an early age - then they just become the facts of life - not some big massive cover up by adults.

LittlePushka Thu 21-Mar-13 22:36:55

It would be a really fascinating if specifically a consultation was targeted at secondary school children,...and their responses were compared with those of adults (effectivley perhaps a generation or so older).

I think that the real proximity of secondary school children to issues relating to sex and relationships gives their opinion and suggestions on these matters particular importance in assessing the impact/effectiveness of sex education in primary school.

ouryve Fri 22-Mar-13 10:16:23

I now have visions of the government insisting that all teachers are trained to say the word "sex" Miranda fashion. hmm

And of course 11-13 year olds need to know about contraception. AND sexual health. It's an unsavoury fact, but there are children this age who are sexually active and need to know about these things. Pretending it doesn't happen isn't going to make it go away.

motherinferior Fri 22-Mar-13 10:38:22

Contraception and sexual health shouldn't be a bolt-on; they should be an integral part of the curriculum.

And the government wonder why we have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world! hmm

Teaching about contraception at 14-16 is much too late most kids will already be having sex by then. It should be tackled in Year 7. Why can't they just bloody teach this stuff honestly, why all the bloody pussyfooting around and omitting certain words from the curriculum?

That should say Europe, not the world.

TeaAndCakeOrDeath Fri 22-Mar-13 12:02:49

I'm possibly biased as mine are too little to for this yet (2 and still in utero) but I work with teenagers (youth worker actually doing a sex and relationships project at the minute due to the utter lack of knowledge in some of the teens at my centre) and am shocked by this.

So we're ok to teach children that they have knees, ears and toes but forbidden to teach them penis, testicles and labia? Its just some other bits of their body isnt it? And quite important bits they learn the proper names of in case of (god forbid) them ever having to explain that those bits hurt or have been touched inappropriatly etc?

The term 'puberty' has been left out of both primary and secondary school curricula and only referenced in the phrase "growing into adults" - again another perfectly normal process that happens to everyone that we are stigmatising by not talking about it? Would we not talk about digestion or respiration? Why do we 'hush up' anything possibly related to sex, are we actively trying to teach children its 'dirty'?

Lastly, delaying the teaching of contraception until Key Stage 4 when pupils are 14-16 is shutting the stable door long after the horse has bolted.

16.2 years is the average age for first time sex according to the lastest research I read but to be the average, a significant number of children will have had sex/engaged in some sexual activity far before this. It should be taught, as a fact of life, from a very early age - "women can choose when to have a baby and if they dont want one yet, they can take a special tablet every day" for example.

Its no wonder with this shoddy sex education that children are receiving we have such a high pregnancy rate, such rampent transmission of infections and such lack of knowledge - we hammer algebra and formation of an oxbow lake down their throat at school but refuse to adequately teach them something that might have massive ramifications on their life or might give them a very serious medical condition? Its completely stupid, utter madness.

bangwhizz Fri 22-Mar-13 12:48:11

'And of course 11-13 year olds need to know about contraception.

No they don't.having sex with an under 13 is statutory rape and it should not be normalised'

motherinferior Fri 22-Mar-13 13:08:27

But they are not being told to go out and DO sex. They are learning about what their options are when they do. I want my daughters knowing about all the contraception they can get their hands on - and indeed that there are plenty of lovely sexual things they can do which will not risk pregnancy - well in advance of their hormones revving up.

And indeed, the somewhat graphic session on childbirth that DD1 has just received (from the male partner of a very lovely MNer, yet grin) has gone a long way to strengthen her interest in contraception...

ouryve Fri 22-Mar-13 13:53:03

bangwhizz. Under 13s sometimes do have sex with each other without encouragement. Nobody would be telling a 12 year old to "go and have sex with a condom, now". They would be told that people having sex need to avoid pregnancy and transmission of STDs and this is the best way to avoid this. They would also usually be taught that the only foolproof way of avoiding these things is by not having sex. They should also be taught what the law is and that you don't have to have sex if you don't 100% want it.

Brushing it all under the carpet helps no one.

Ronaldo Sat 23-Mar-13 07:56:37

The problem is , in my experience of teaching social education ( euphamism for sex ed) and oftalking to many older students after they have left school and got wiser, is that nobody actually tells them it is illegal under 16.

I have heard many say they didnt know until they were much older that it was not acceptable or legal and even had they known, they would actually not felt the need to go and try it.

They get all this sex education telling them how and lots of jolly young nurses doing contraception and showing them the plastic penis etc and they think that is a cue to go and do it. It came as a total surprise to most when I did a little quiz on " ages you are allowed to...." as a fill in once and we got round to knowing that sexual intercourse was not acceptable under 16.

I have also had the discussion where when kids were asked " what age to you think you should have sex" ( in a text book not my question) they all said
"when you feel ready" - so I said, "so what age is that" - clearly they had not thought and so I said well, how about 6months ( yes we got the yukcs rightly), then I upped the age, until one lad said, " Sir shouldnt it be after puberty". I said " So when is that" - and a lot of them realised that puberty was also moveable ..... still none of them knew that an age to protect them had been set.

I had to explain that to them.

After that I had some interesting comments whilst kids were working and I was " doing the rounds" of checking work etc. A number of girls and boys seemed to want to know whether I ( and i am not allowed to say!) thought it was better to wait until they were older and had a proper steady boyfried. I expelianed I couldnttell them this and one girls said " well I am going to wait until I am engaged or married" - and the others seemed to agree ( including some boys!).

So you see , they dont know very much at all and we throw sex at them and its not understood.

Personally I am not allowing my DS intosuch lessons and I will be telling him clearly not to get jiggy with it until he is old enough to be responsible for the consequencies ( and I wont be having that conversation until he is at least 11).

musicalfamily Sat 23-Mar-13 19:14:23

I don't know why parents would want this, this is something I want to tackle myself with the children and choose when to do so (ie when they are individually ready and mature to understand it).

GoingGoingGoth Sat 23-Mar-13 19:33:18

Don't know whether Scotland is covered under these guidelines, but Glasgow has it's own SHRE guidance, used by all primary & senior schools. We've just moved here, so I've recently been to the parent's briefing. It was very good, teaches correct names in P1, and then slowly introduces other information though the years. The main premise is healthy self and respect for your own and others bodies.

The following is lifted from their fact sheet

The curriculum material has been written in a way that each year is a building block for future years. A great deal of effort has been made to ensure that the material is age and stage appropriate. It closely follows national guidance in respect of what should be taught and when.
Although the overall programme is called ‘sexual health & relationships education’, at early primary level the emphasis is very much on ‘relationships’, focusing on family, friendships, caring for people and things etc. At P5 the names for sexual organs and reproduction are introduced and in P6 and P7 issues about puberty and its emotional consequences are dealt with.
At secondary level, there are again strong ‘relationships’ and ‘emotions’ themes throughout. There is also an emphasis on encouraging young people to ‘delay’ engaging in sexual activity until they are ready to deal with its physical and emotional consequences. It is in S3 when issues about sexual activity and protection are introduced.

BertieBotts Sat 23-Mar-13 19:37:08

14-16 is FAR too late to be teaching about contraception! shock WTF? Who thought that one up, who can argue this is a positive thing?? I don't think by a long way that all or even most teenagers are having sex by this age but a sizeable minority will definitely have done it by 16 and they need to have those myths like "You can't get pregnant on your first time" "You can't get pregnant before you start your periods" (etc) myths busted and to be taught that no contraception is 100% and the things which render contraception unsafe (oils + condoms, antibiotics + pill, etc) well before they even think about having sex. And it should be repeated and repeated until they are utterly sick of it but they also know it so well that it just doesn't cross their mind to believe the myths.

TBH I think it's pretty outdated that sex education is still 10/11 year olds sat around a video where some cartoon children morph into adults, sprouting pubes and boobs etc. And then the scene of sex which is a cutaway diagram of how the penis goes in. It's just so far removed from what sex is, and in an age where any child can type "sex" into google and come across a whole range of stuff, most ridiculously inappropriate, I think it's just irrelevant.

Deal with the biology - physical changes, why they happen, reproduction, babies, contraception, etc, in biology. Deal with the emotional stuff, how it might feel to go through puberty, how to know if you're ready for sex, how to know if your partner is happy with the speed things are going, that it's ok to have regrets and to go back a stage, how to talk about sex, that there are different types/stages of sex and it isn't a competition to get to the "best" one, that you might prefer one thing to another, that you might be gay or bi, and that's fine, how to deal with a potential pregnancy, what abuse is and how to get help if you feel uncomfortable, etc etc, in lessons like PSHE where it's more of a discussion - this can start from 11ish and of course different topics would be discussed at different ages, but I just think it's ridiculous that we still insist on teaching "Sex education" as though it's one contained topic. Why is it still opt-out? Drugs education isn't opt-out. Vegetarian parents don't have the option to remove their children from dissection lessons. What's so special about sex? In this age of easy internet access it needs to be talked about more openly and in more depth than before, but let's separate the biology out from the emotions and treat them as the very different things that they are.

pointythings Sat 23-Mar-13 20:17:56

Well, I'm in favour of the Dutch model - they start early and seem to get results - as in, one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world and one of the highest ages of first intercourse. And they're pretty damn explicit.

When I was at school in Holland they started at 12, which was too late - but at least it was very, very in depth. It took an entire term's worth of biology lessons and it covered the mechanics (puberty, menstruation, intercourse, pregnancy and birth, STDs but also the differences between the male and female orgasm) as well as the social and emotional aspects (peer pressure, commitment and relationships, the right to say no, social and religious aspects of virginity). We also talked about homosexuality and 'kinky' sex. It was all very neutral, done by our biology teacher and no-one batted an eyelid.

Not a lot of pregnant teens in my school.

I intend to do the sex ed bit myself, in fact started a very long time ago with my DDs who are 10 and 12. I don't trust the British system, especially since now this government looks to be winding back the changes brought in by the previous government (which did not go far enough) and pandering to the pearl clutching brigades in the shires.

Lara2 Sun 24-Mar-13 10:12:59

It all boils down to one simple fact - ignorance is not bliss. It never has been and never will be. Any Government that insists on putting it's head in the sand is storing up even more trouble then we currently have. Why on earth do they continue to think that ignoring a problem will make it cease to exist?
It's all so bloody frustrating - but TBH hardly surprising coming from a Government that really doesn't give two hoots about our Education system and the adults and children involved in it.

Chocolatemoosemama Sun 24-Mar-13 14:56:42

My ds is just about to have his sex education lessons at primary. Parents were allowed to view the DVD they use beforehand and we took the school up on this offer.

What struck me was that the sessions the school is using are nearly all about sex, with very little education on puberty - which obviously, being year 6 pupils, is something they are all going to go through soon and some may already be going through.

They are essentially teaching it all backwards. First they need to learn about their bodies and understand how they work, then they need to learn about how bodies change and develop and only after they have been taught about puberty and the physical, hormonal and emotional changes it brings will they be ready for learning about sex.

The other thing that concerns me is that it is too little, too late for some of the children in ds's year. Had they just taught the basic facts about body parts etc in a very biological matter of fact way from when they were younger, the staff would not be facing dealing with a lot of silly giggling and messing about, from children for whom this stuff has always been at best enigmatic, at worst secretive and/or shameful. If children are taught about their body, with appropriate terminology, from a young age they are much more likely to be accepting matter of fact about it and not find it embarrassing or funny.

In addition, it is a sad fact that, with a lack of formal education on the subject, some of the more developed boys at my dc's school have found their own methods of investigating - for want of a better word. Be it online or though magazines or other forms of media and there have been a few incidents recently of inappropriate behaviour and language being used, which other less-developed children have found confusing and upsetting. Had they all had sensible, age appropriate education from a young age, they would not have reached 11 years old and for some of them, puberty, without having the information/facts not to mention emotional and moral guidance they need to make sense of it all.

Thecatisatwat Mon 25-Mar-13 11:58:33

Chocolate completely agree with what you say. My worry is that children and teenagers will get their sex education from porn (what's that statistic, one in 4 11 year olds have viewed porn or something?) so I would like secondary school kids to be taught the truth about porn, how unrealistic it is, how many people in the industry are exploited, how it's all about money, how it promotes very unsafe sex and how it is completely inappropriate for them to be watching it etc.

And then I would like the PARENTS of primary school children to be forced to attend seminars where the dangers of children being exposed to porn either by easy access to the internet via phones or computers or by older children passing on information to younger children is rammed home quite forcefully.

I'm shocked that children aren't always being taught that the age of consent is 16, I assumed that all knew but that some were simply ignoring it.

I'd like a lot less focus on cartoon characters and "how your body changes", and a lot more focus on emotions, needs, how to be respectful to other people about sex, etc. The mechanics of sex and puberty is simple. The emotional and moral side of it is much more complex and that's why we need more focus on it. 14-15 year olds should be talking about relationships, not mechanics.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Mon 25-Mar-13 12:31:38

As usual when this sort of thing is announced it does not apply to Scotland...

kx147 Mon 25-Mar-13 12:35:28

Having worked in several secondary schools my experience in all of them has been that there is great intention of teaching sex ed/sexual health/growing-up issues etc but delivering it has been a problem. The teachers are often embarrassed and don't know how to teach it. Sometimes it's left to the biology teacher or the tutor, and if they want to skim over it they will. This only reinforces the idea that it is rude, wrong and not to be talked about with adults. Discussing it from as young as possible and in context could go a long way to changing the overall attitude to sex in this country. Training staff to teach it well (or bringing in someone who does feel comfortable teaching it) might make it easier to deliver the lessons properly.

TumbleWeeds Mon 25-Mar-13 12:45:32

Seen the extremely high proportion of children that will have seen some porn at the end of Primary School, I think it's essential that sex education is done at school for an early age.

It is essential to teach children about their body, STI and contraception (as well as the woman cycle so that both girls and boys have an idea of what it actually IS and what it actually MEANS for the woman).
I think it's also essential to teach children about RESPECT, respect of their partners (more than half of grown men thinks that it's OK to have sex with a woman if she first said yes and then no.....) respect of themselves (You CAN say no to something you aren't keen on),.
And healthy dose of explanation of what porn actually is ie it is NOT the reality!

In a time when sexual scene (if not porn or violent porn) are available so easily, I am shock that some people high up are feeling a bit queasy about talking about sex.
It's a bit like saying that you should run a marathon but not telling you about it until you have started running. So no training before hand, no good shoes on etc... And then wondering why half of the runners never finished the race.
Our children NEED to be taught early on about the basics of sex. And talking about reproduction is NOT talking about sex. It's talking about biology.
Talking about sex is talking about respect and contraception. Very different.

BlindFishIdeas Mon 25-Mar-13 14:27:37

Hello all, I work as a paid Sex and Relationship Educator in high schools across Chester and just wanted to share a few thoughts.

What age?
I think we need to educate young people before they are doing things, not whilst they are starting to experiment. Therefore teaching them at 11-13 is about preparing them for when they are older not because we think they are all doing sexual things now. Yes young people under 13 can not legally 'consent' and we should not encourage them to be sexually active earlier. Every good quality Sex and Relationship Educator is working to encourage young people to delay their first sexual experience. To do this we need to speak early.

When young people are asked (National Children's Bureau Report for example) they say they want more information about Relationships and how the Media represents sex. We need to respond to these needs. SRE should not be purely biological we need to cover the emotional and social aspects of sex and relationships. I regularly say something like "It's good to think, discuss and make plans for your future personal life now, in the cold light of a classroom, so you can make critical thoughts now. You will make a better decision now then trying to make the decision when you are slightly drunk, late a night, at a party in front of the person you think is really attractive". Its about encouraging the development of good life skills and healthy attitudes.

Specifically Porn
I think adults need to get to grips with the influence of porn/erotica on young people. Let me share two questions I have recently been asked in lessons. (I apologise if the language offends but this is word for word what I was being asked) "If I press a girl's clit will she squirt?" and "why do guys want to cum on girls faces?". I cannot prove it but i am confident these questions had their route in porn. Maybe not the person asking has watched porn (but possibly) maybe this is just the current gossip. But the language used seems to be directly routed in pornography. In Chester I now teach a lesson specifically looking at the distortions of the media. half of this lesson is dedicated to pointing up the central fact that mainstream pornography is full of myths and lies! Young people's view of sex are being shaped by porn and we need to provide a counter message.

Isn't this the parents job?
I wish my job wasn't necessary I wish in every family the parents felt confident to talk about sex and relationships. I wish every young person felt they could ask their parents frank questions. I wish parents had all the information they needed. Sadly that is not the culture we live in. Many parents are too embarrassed/don't have enough up to date info to deal with the topic well. Most young people sadly aren't confident to ask their parents. And you do get the situation where some parents give bad advice. For example the young girl I worked with who said "It is not a real relationship until you have sex, my mum told me". For the benefit of all young people we need schools to be involved in SRE. But maybe it needs to be spearheaded by external specialist not dumped on overworked school teachers.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about the work I do despite the governments inaction.

pointythings Mon 25-Mar-13 18:02:57

Fish I could not agree with you more - my DD1 is in Yr7 and one of the not very nice boys in her year just came right out and asked her for a blowjob. I am so glad I've been talking to her about sex, relationships and self-respect and so she could handle it.

I do worry about children who grow up with this completely dysfunctional image of sex and sexuality. Not only are their parents failing to talk to them appropriately, they are also failing to shield them from the kind of graphic sexual content which is available on the Internet.

However, the answer is not to allow schools to more or less opt out of sex education - on the contrary, it needs to be more in depth, more open and more honest. And it needs to start much earlier too. All this wishy-washy stuff about not mentioning puberty is going to take the UK backwards.

OrWellyAnn Mon 25-Mar-13 20:02:07

I think children should be taught sex Ed throughout school, both primary and secondary at levels appropriate to their age. Our 7 year old has already been taught (by us) what her bits are, and boy bits, how it all works, how babies are made, shown pictures of internal organs and how they release sperm and egg. We did this because she asked, and we felt it was wring to give her a 'birds and bees' version and confuse her. We also explaned about there being an age when it was appropriate, about inappropriate sex (ie between anyone and herself before she is 16, though I did tell her the truth, that I had lost my virginity at 15, and that I probably wasn't ready and did it because of peer pressure, and that sex between anyone and herself if she doesn't want to was wrong.)
it's too important an issue to be left to chance or covered cack handedly, and tbh I'm really surprised that in 2013 there are kids whose parents themselves don't take that responsibility, esp with the prevalence of highly sexualised media...even mainstream stuff like MTV is massively sexualised.

i do think there certainly should be coverage of it in schools for those who don't have that support at home, and it doesn't hurt to hear the messages that sex is about sharing your body with someone you WANT to share it with, and the consequences of doing so, both good and bad, from more than one source.

OrWellyAnn Mon 25-Mar-13 20:04:06

Oh, and we have skirted contraception, just told her it is possible not to get pregnant, but not covered std's or anything in great detail, but I will do by the time she is 9/10 because although I certainly don't expect or want her to be having sex by then, I would never be naive enough to believe it doesn't sometimes happen, and I would hate her to be misinformed.

TheFallenNinja Mon 25-Mar-13 21:12:49

Dear The Government.

You worry about the economy, poverty, equality and the three R's and I'll teach my kids all they need to know about sex and relationships. M'kay.


If you all stopped telling pories we'd perhaps be a little more inclined to trust you.



pointythings Mon 25-Mar-13 21:21:32

The problem with that is that there are too many parents who don't teach their children about sex and relationships, Ninja. So we can't afford not to do this in schools, because we have children who get their sex education from Internet porn and embarrassed stammering teachers who have drawn the short straw and so have to do 'the talk' that year.

BertieBotts Mon 25-Mar-13 21:29:18

I've mentioned contraception, briefly, to my 4 year old as part of a general conversation about how babies are made, during a conversation about periods when he followed me into the toilet, and because he asked what my pill packet was for and if I was poorly because he knows tablets as medicine. It doesn't have to be a big secret thing.

I think it should be covered in schools and I think the focus on mechanics is very outdated now. Make it porn-aware because that's the way most children are, sadly, going to learn about sex. Most people in my generation learned about sex from porn and it's left us with really fucked up ideas about it! I'm 24.

pointythings Mon 25-Mar-13 21:38:48

Bertie that's exactly the approach I have always taken - they ask, you tell - in an age appropriate way. None of that 'oh, you don't need to know that, I'll tell you when you're older' crap.

TheFallenNinja Mon 25-Mar-13 23:14:34

Totally on board with the state educating in the mechanics of sex, I do however take issue with the notion that my views on relationships could be contradicted in the classroom.

This is not to say that I hold any controversial or cutting edge views on relationships, however if a question came up and my answer was the opposite of what is being taught by the state then there is a problem.

It doesn't really help that in law whilst we have an age of consent, it's actually pretty worthless when consent can be given at a younger age and that can be used in a defence.

MsMarple Mon 25-Mar-13 23:23:07

Speaking from personal experience, I think sex education at 14 made it seem like a perfectly natural, normal, desirable thing for me to be doing in my relationships. Which led to me behaving, at a very young age, in a way that was massively damaging to my self esteem and wellbeing.

I might have acted differently if the focus of lessons had been on waiting until you were an adult to do adult things, understanding the emotional consequences of sexual activity rather than simply managing the risk of conception, and valuing yourself enough to say no even though 'everyone does it'. And the very clear idea that 16 was the age of consent, so really not to bother even thinking about it as an option until then.

I also agree with the 'if they ask, you tell' approach. But this also means that if they don't ask, and aren't showing any interest, don't shock them to the core with a video of cartoon people having sex that they are much too young for. Someone up-thread was advocating sex education for 4 year olds. Not quite sure what detail they would want to include, but I feel that introducing information about sex to children who haven't asked for it is a kind of violation.

Jux Mon 25-Mar-13 23:44:31

I think that respect for yourself and for other people should be taught from the moment a child starts to mix with others. They grow up knowing about stranger danger from reception, if ont before, but they also need to be taught how to be respectful of others, but particularly what is not respectful to themselves.

If that can be established early on, then it leads naturally onto relationships and eventually to sex ed. Red flags should be included in primary, and carried through until they leave education.

Some of this is obvious really, I know, but I think it needs to be emphasised more.

Hulababy Tue 26-Mar-13 08:26:53

Dd had a pretty good puberty and periods talk in y5 at school. I was really pleased. Of course I have talked to her about it all beforehand. But somehow learning things at school as well just helps reinforce it all. And sadly many children do not get informed by their parents either. For us the timing was perfect. She had the school talk I'm the summer of y5. She had already started puberty re body changes and she then started her periods at Christmas in y6. She felt confident to deal with them, and because of the school talk she also knew who she may need to go see in school, which were the best toilets to use, where to go if she needed help, knew she was allowed paracetamol at school and who would,look,after it, etc.

She will have the sex talk in the summer of y6. Again at home we have had spoken a little about it and we have a couple of books. She is aware. But the school talk and video will reinforce it. I do not expect her to be having sex for many years to come, but I do want her to have the information. And yes, she will learn abut legal ages too. By learnng a little and often about sex, sexual health, contraception, relationships, etc from primary on, it keeps reinforcing the information, so by the time they are older terms and considering exploring this side of life the knowledge should be there, learnt and absorbed.

Relationships currently starts in reception. I have done circle time with 4 and 5 year olds about respecting one another, looking out for each other, what to do if others do things you don't like ( in context of rough play, playground stuff, etc.) this continues throughout primary, building on the information each year.

posadas Tue 26-Mar-13 08:47:37

Pointythings -- you're right there are many parents who don't teach their children about sex and relationships. There are also many parents who don't teach their children about maths, reading, writing, history, geography, nutrition, physical education, manners, etc etc etc.... Schools are struggling to find and retain teachers who can teach what schools were set up to teach (and, often, what parents neglect to teach at home). Where and how will they find teachers who can deliver the sort of "sex education" you and others advocate? As you say, at the moment, the classes are delivered by "embarrassed stammering teachers who have drawn the short straw and so have to do 'the talk' that year". Where will the straight-talking, un-embarrassed teachers come from? And at the expense of what other education?

(for the avoidance of doubt: I mean "straight-talking" in the sense of "direct", "un-stammering", etc -- not in a sexual sense!!!)

kritur Tue 26-Mar-13 20:37:58

Quite honestly no teacher should be forced to teach it.... I say that because unless they willingly volunteer then they will teach it badly, skip buts and generally make a total hash of it. I quite happily teach it and answer questions without embarrassment. The same cannot be said for my ex colleague, a mid 40s history teacher who still lived with his parents, had never had a girlfriend (or boyfriend) but whose timetable was not full.

pointythings Tue 26-Mar-13 20:41:20

posadas we need a system of the kind they have in Scandinavian countries. Of course that would also mean changing our culture of viewing sex as something shameful and dirty that you do when you're drunk on a Friday night. It's going to take some doing, but we can't afford not to try.

MsMarple when I had sex education in the Netherlands I was 13, and as I have mentioned above, the open, honest and thorough teaching I got certainly did not encourage me (or anyone else) to go out and have sex. Even though sex was not in any way discussed as something 'forbidden'. We were certainly told that sex was something precious and that our bodies were not to be given away cheaply, but the emphasis was on strong, loving relationships, not on saving ourselves for marriage. The 'let's get the talk over with' approach used in the UK helps no-one, and nor does not discussion the social and emotional aspects.

Ninja could you clarify? I would hope that schools would be responsible enough not to teach their students that sex is just a fun thing you can do without consequences. However, I do not think parents who teach anti-homosexual views at home should receive much consideration when deciding the curriculum - after all, they can always choose to withdraw their children.

The age of first intercourse in the Netherlands is considerably higher than it is in the UK.

posadas Wed 27-Mar-13 10:21:38

pointythings: scandinavian countries and the netherlands all have much more homogenous populations and much greater income equality than the UK. I would guess these socio-economic factors influence the age of first intercourse and rate of teen pregnancies more than (or at least as much as) whatever "sex education" is offered in schools. The causes of sexual problems (children being pressured into early sex, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancies, etc) will not be solved by training more teachers in the UK to be competent and sensitive sex educators. There are much more complex problems that need to be addressed -- far beyond the remit of a "primary education" chat.

pointythings Wed 27-Mar-13 20:59:35

I agree, posadas and I have always said this - socio-economic inequality is the elephant in the room in everything, not just sex education.

Unfortunately we have a government who appear to want to increase the divide, not close it.

Cultural factors can't be underestimated - I have vivid memories of discussing the mechanics of the female orgasm with my father when I was about 21. No idea how it came up, but we could just talk about it, like adults, without either of us feeling in the slightest bit embarrassed. I don't see that happening in many UK families, unfortunately.

BlindFishIdeas Thu 28-Mar-13 09:41:03

There is a simple solution to the problem of current teachers not feeling able or willing to teach SRE. We can make use of external specialists. Many young people talk about how they want an external person to be the main lead in a lesson so that they can ask blunt direct questions. External workers they wont then have to see in English classes. Equally I recognise that some young people will want to talk to a teacher they know, which is why SRE lessons should have main staff presents whilst an external specialist leads the topic. We need a mix.

There are some excellent, professional, direct and knowledgeable SRE educators that can do excellent work. Both the larger SRE charities (brook, fpa) and smaller independent workers (Esteem Resource Network, BishUK) could be key in improving what young people receive at School. An educator who's job is to focus on SRE all the time is always going to be better prepared to deliver lessons then the poor geography teacher forced to teach 2 hours of SRE a year.

SelfRighteousPrissyPants Thu 28-Mar-13 12:00:18

This is strange, I've just had a discussion with some of the parents at my child's school about how they WILL be taught the correct names for genitals! Some were horrified that 5 yo's will know the words penis and vagina, personally I think it's a good thing to tell them the correct names. So is our school behind the times with the curriculum or hasn't the new 'tell them as little as possible as late as possible' one started yet?

SelfRighteousPrissyPants Thu 28-Mar-13 12:01:26

Ah sorry. Re-read it to see it's a proposal blush

Ronaldo Fri 29-Mar-13 13:25:11

I think this " age appropriate" rubbish is just that - rubbish. There isnt anything age appropriate about teaching sex to a five or six year old.

I am sending my DS to a school where this does not happen. If I find it does happen ( having asked already) I will be withdrawing him from those classes. Thats it, end of.

As for those lovely specilaists who are supposedly teaching it without embarassment - I have witnessed it in my previous school. I was the QTS who had to be there whilst this young woman did her thing. Next to pornography it was the nastiest and least educational lesson I have ever seen. I am not prudich but I think it was too much and there was no direction. It is not without some coincidence I think that several boys felt it appropriate thereafter to say very suggestive things to girls in class! Neither do I think it was isolated that one girl got pregant a few weeks later ( having "done it" for her boyfriends 16!). She was in floods of tears, clearly unprepared and thought it was "OK". No one told her what would be the consequence of being 13 and pregnant. No one told her anything really despite or because of those lessons which were all sex and nothing about choice or choice not to.

Similarly, just before the Easter break, in a very different context I was teaching a class where they filled in a questionnaire about what they were looking for in a future "mate" There was a list of characteristics and they had to rank them as what was most important and what wasleast important.

I have done this time and again over the years but I saw something odd this year. Many boys ( BOYS!!!) had ranked chastity very highly for the first time. ( usually only overseas students were doing this previously and we had a one or two rank it highly, but this year, nearly all the boys ranked it as a characteristic they wanted in a girl - yes this was assuming heterosexuality).

The girsl ranked chastity low ( not difference) but were very shocked when they saw the ranks come out with chastity high on male lists.

Now as I said, its not been a feature before but it led to a full scale row ( no other word) in the class between the boys and girls ( all sixth form) over
"how dare the boys want a virgin" and how " they wouldnt find a girl who fitted their high spec in our society" ( all fromn the girls who were clearly following the post feminist / ladette culture)

Boys though it seemed had not been jiggy as several said, wanted to find a girl and have a real relationship first and they didnt want second hand goods ( their words!).

The lesson ended. I dont know what happened. I never did complete the correlation stats.

So , be aware ladies, young men may be changing here and they may be getting more discerning. Tell your daughters before they go and do what they shouldnt oughta!

I was taken aback as I had not seen this before on this scale.

socareless Fri 29-Mar-13 17:19:13

Could'nt agree more Ronaldo. All this superior talk of 'age appropriate sex talk' for 5 yr old is making me very queasy. Why, oh why? I think all this is just paving way for something very sinister in future.

Will not be surprised if people start talking about children as young as 5 being allowed to experient as its part of our nature as 'sexual beings'.

There are a lot of negative forces at play here. For me Feminism is a word meaning * I hate being a woman*. <shudders>

InSearchOfPerfection Sat 30-Mar-13 10:15:39

But what do you mean by sex education at 5yo? If this is about knowing what are the genitals in men and women and know that to make a baby you need some sperm and an egg, I am not sure why this would be an issue.
I mean lots of youngest who are in a farming family are aware of that (and how the men give the sperm) at a much younger age.... They just have to look around them/nature.

However, I am not sure that talking about sex position etc... at school S appropriate with teenagers. But talking about respect, that you should only do things when you want to not because you should/peer pressure/bf or gf pressure should be talked about.
As well as the biology behind reproduction (because of its link with pg) and the responsibility of both sex about it.
And STI. Lots about STI such as herpes that you can catch even if you don't have full sex for example.

I am very uneasy about the fact that boys ranked girls being a virgin a good thing.... Does it mean that it is good for men too to be a virgin? And that they would be 'second hand goods'. Because if they do, they there is something to think about. But if it is again 'the girl needs to be a virgin but men can do as they please...' then... the girl were more than right to take offence tbh.

InSearchOfPerfection Sat 30-Mar-13 10:20:12

socareless sadsad.
What else can I say.....

Perhaps, something like 'Have a look at what a real patriarchal society where women have few rights means'? And then learn to appreciate what other women have done for you so you can have choices in your life (incl fitting the stereotypical idea of what a woman should be)

socareless Sat 30-Mar-13 16:28:20

Insearch I am actually laughing at 'I mean lots of youngest who are in a farming family are aware of that (and how the men give the sperm) at a much younger age' and ' learn to appreciate what other women have done for you so you can have choices in your life'.

You don't know me so please let's not make this personal. I think women will do ourselves a lot of good if we stop trying to emulate men and score one point over them. The biggest point we seem to want scoring now is that of sexual promiscuity forgeting that men don't get pregnant or can have sex and not feel attachment unlike women.

To each her own. If it suits you can hold 'sex talks' with your 5 yr old daughter (God help her).

Ronaldo Sat 30-Mar-13 17:36:48

I am very uneasy about the fact that boys ranked girls being a virgin a good thing.... Does it mean that it is good for men too to be a virgin? And that they would be 'second hand goods'. Because if they do, they there is something to think about. But if it is again 'the girl needs to be a virgin but men can do as they please...' then... the girl were more than right to take offence tbh

I think I did make the reasoning clear but it seems you didnt want to see it.

They were not asked to rank their own gender or themselves, so I cannot say what would have been the outcome.

However,the boys were very clear that they themselves were not engaging in random sex (as I call it, getting jiggy). They agreed they wanted a relationship before they did this . They felt it important that any mate they chose should be similar to themsleves and did not want girls who were free and easy (my phrase not theirs).

To sum up it seemed they didnt feel they wanted their lives to be dominated by nasty rashes and trips to the hospital for STI. They had clearly grasped the message that when you have sex with a partner you have sex iwth every partner they have had before you. Sexual health lies in not having multiple a partners and random sexual encounters..

They were keeping healthy, they wanted a healthy female.

Only one girl felt virginity was important and she said this was a matter of religion for her. One partner for life.

Not a nice thing to say I agree but it clearly showed the gap opening between males and females here.

Is that clear enough?

Ronaldo Sat 30-Mar-13 17:43:28

To each her own. If it suits you can hold 'sex talks' with your 5 yr old daughter (God help her)

My thoughts exactly. I am not at all sure my DS knows or wants to know how babies are made in terms of sex.

The sex act is private and should be so. My DS has seen many animlas have chicks. kittens puppies etc. but I am fairly sure how that happened has bothered him.

I think that sometimes we are offering too much information.

Meglet Mon 01-Apr-13 16:45:07

I spoke to DS about sex, how babies were made and how they came out when he started reception year at the age of 5. The last thing I wanted to happen was him hearing silly rumours about sex / babies in the playground. Telling children how babies are made and the basics about sex is as essential as telling them about what their lungs are for or what bones are, we cover all that so there is no point in avoiding sex.

FWIW he still believes in Father Xmas and the tooth fairy.

I was told about sex from a young age, first had sex at 22 and pregnancy at 32. Knowing about sex / babies and relationships does not make children tear off and do it.

Personally I think the teachers should cover it around year 3/4. Get in early before some of the children start developing and the girls start their periods.

BertieBotts Mon 01-Apr-13 17:56:46

I am shocked that people really think talking to a small child about sex (and yes I DO believe this can be done in an age appropriate manner) is some kind of "slippery slope" to encouraging 5 year olds to experiment - I mean really?? How totally ridiculous and offensive.

I also find the comments about boys and chastity/virginity really disturbing. Talk about slut shaming. There's nothing wrong with wanting to wait to have sex,but talk about second hand goods and having any kind of expectation/claim really about someone's past isn't on.

averyyoungkitten Tue 02-Apr-13 10:09:44

Teaching children about sex at younger and younger ages has not solved any of the problems it was supposed to address like teenage pregnancy and promiscuity, sex related infections and underage experimentation so it is a failed exercise in my opinion. What is needed is a social and attitude change. Policies that work in other countries do not work here because we do not have the same kinds of society.

The same goes for boys attitudes to girls and sex. I have heard similar things from my DS recently too. It has always been the case that boys see girls who are sexually willing that way. Being disturbed by it won’t change it and just because we have a society that tells girls they can be as free as they like won’t change views either. It may make some think rather than speak but when people think and cannot speak, they think all the more I find.

Wellthen Tue 02-Apr-13 11:40:53

Teaching children about sex at younger and younger ages has not solved any of the problems it was supposed to address like teenage pregnancy and promiscuity, sex related infections and underage experimentation so it is a failed exercise in my opinion.

Based on what research? In which country?

Although I agree it isnt so much the age as the quality of the sex ed. Countries that have low teenage birth rates dont necessarily start young but their attitude to sex is completely diffferent. It isnt seen as dirty, there isnt nothing 'young people shouldnt know'

I just dont understand squeamishness about telling 5 year olds about sex. They have no concept of desire, they genuinely see it as 'the man puts his elbow in her leg'. The earlier the better I would say and then they simply see it as a fact of life. There is no evidence that telling children about sex causes them to experiment with it at such a young age.

BertieBotts Tue 02-Apr-13 14:05:22

I would think I had failed as a parent if I heard my DS going on about "damaged goods" in respect to people.

MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 02-Apr-13 16:08:43

Hello all - if at all of interest, here is the Sex Education Forum's official response to the consultation, which raises some of the points discussed here about proposals affecting SRE teaching in schools.


Linketty Thu 04-Apr-13 12:45:30

Are other parents/grandparents as concerned as I am, that it is so easy for children, as young as 11yrs. to access violent pornographic images and activities on their i-pads, mobile phones and computers?

I, personally, favour an opt-in method of accessing this stuff, rather than the opt-out system, which exists at the moment, which would give some young people a measure of protection. However, Parliament has, apparently, rejected this idea.

The problem with opting out is that many parents are unaware of the problem or are too harrassed and busy to find out how to do it. I have discovered that the matter is going thro' the House of Lords and a second reading of Lady Elspeth Howe's Bill urging that the opt-in system be adopted will be considered later this year.

I feel so sorry for these youngsters who are being shown these abusive images by their friends and in some cases are being traumatised and/or addicted to porn. Surely they will find it difficult to form loving, mature relationships with men/women later on?

I am investigating the possibility of launching a petition, with the help of 38, for people to sign in favour of the opt-in system. Would Mumsnet members support it?

chickensaladagain Fri 05-Apr-13 22:50:47

my concern is that it is all based in science

my dds knew about sex from whenever it was they asked

dd1 when she had just turned 7 said 'I know babies grow in mummy's tummy, and I know they get there from a special grown up cuddle, but EXACTLY how does that happen?'

'sex ed' took place at the end of yr5

they do yr 5&6 together alternate years and dd was amazed at how many of the girls didn't know anything about anything including periods

easter in yr 6 -they had a talk about changing bodies and personal hygiene hmm maybe a bit back to front

for sex education to be effective, children need to know that they have a right to say no and saying no is ok, that if their 13 year old friends are going around saying they have all had sex then they are lying, that it's not a race to do it first, that with the right person sex is very enjoyable, that you should respect yourself and your partner(s) enough not to jump from bed to bed, having sex is not the only way to show someone you love them, to use barrier contraception and if the boy says it's no fun with a condom, then tell him it's even less fun with no condom!

you don't get that in a science lab!

marriedinwhiteagain Sun 07-Apr-13 19:42:41

Message from a parent blindfishideas and I think it is regrettable there is nothing in your post about this.

Sex should be about more than lust, it should also be about love, it should also involve mutual respect and an awareness of the risks and should only happen with contraception and in an established loving relationship

It should not happen before age 16; it can wait until marriage. It is not the be all and the end all, it is OK to say NO and nobody should ever feel pressured to have sex they don't want.

The disadvantages of teen pregnancy need to be spelled out and some of the basics highlighted.

That is what should be at the heart of sex education and without the above any sex education is utterly worthless.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now