What do you think about early sex education?

The government wants sex education for children from the age of 5, starting with lessons discussing ‘correct’ names of body parts and relationships. But is it such a good idea?

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“It’s healthy to teach kids”

“As someone brought up in a household that never dared mention sex, I think it’s healthy to teach five year olds about their bodies in a matter-of-fact way. I grew up believing my body and sex were things that I should be ashamed of, and I still battle with these issues now. The argument that it should be left to the parents doesn’t wash – some can’t be bothered, while others have hang-ups that they’ll transfer to their children.”

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Sarah Jones, 41, from Warwickshire, mum to Grace, 4

“It’s too much, too young”

“This is intended to reduce teen pregnancy rates, but it’s wrong. I was brought up in an open household and knew about sex even before I started school. But it was too much, too young. I got pregnant at 15 and had a termination. I’ll tell my children about the facts of life when I think they’re ready. The thought of a teacher doing it when the government thinks they’re ready frightens me.”

Jane Atkins, 32, Dorset, mum to Luke, 5, and Alice, 3

“Sex won’t figure straight away”

“We’re not talking about five year olds being taught about sex. They will be learning about themselves, about their differences [the correct naming of body parts], about their friendships, how to have strong friendships and how to manage their feelings. That then allows them in Key Stage Two [aged 7-11] to learn about puberty and the facts of life.”

Jim Knight, schools minister

“I worry about the curriculum”

“I believe in being honest and open with children, so in theory I agree with the government’s plans. As a teacher, however, I worry that the curriculum will be too simplistic, and won’t take into account individual children‘s backgrounds. There are religious and cultural issues to consider, along with any trauma a child may have experienced. If a young child has been abused, for example, being exposed to the word ‘penis’ – however ‘correct’ that word is – may be deeply upsetting.”

Rufi Thomas, teacher at Ysgol Feithrin Sardis, Pontypridd

“It’s a waste of time and money”

“Teaching five year olds the proper names of their body parts won’t do any harm. But it won’t do any good, either. It’s a waste of time and money. The key to reducing teen pregnancy rates and improving behaviour doesn’t lie in early sex education, it lies in creating more sports and social facilities for teens, curbing rubbish reality TV shows and reducing working hours. Our working-all-hours culture and the massive cost of living means parents can’t afford to spend as much time guiding and talking to their children as they’d like.”

Liz Perkins, 43, Essex, mum to Isaac, 6, and Ruth, 3

“It leads to experimenting”

“All sex education encourages experimentation, and schools are effectively corrupting children behind their parents’ backs, interfering with children’s natural modesty.”

Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice

“It shouldn’t be taught in school”

“Parents talk to their children about the different parts of their body when they dress them from their earliest days. When it comes to private parts, parents can decide for themselves if they want to use biological terms or pet names. It’s the same with relationships – children learn about these in the context of everyday life. There’s just no need to professionalise such things by adding them to an already overloaded primary school curriculum.”

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Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust

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