The government is proposing a new curriculum for sex education across all schools. Whereas it was only compulsory for Secondary schools, Justine Greening, the education secretary, wants this to extend to Primaries as well, and include privately run, academies and non-religious schools too.
Age appropriate classes will be given to children of all ages and in all school types, since the feeling among MPs was that the sex education guidelines currently in place are completely outdated. They’re keen to see that vulnerable children don’t remain in the dark about modern and complex issues.
The children will be taught about safe and healthy relationships, as well as about the more generic understanding of sexual reproduction. The hope is that this will give the children an open attitude to talking about things like sexting and sexual abuse, as well as inappropriate relationships, and consequently be aware and better equipped to deal with them.
It’s hard to imagine that this contentious and emotive subject could be adequately covered by schools, or in a class setting. It won’t be easy for teachers to get open discussions going, for any useful length of time or depth, among self conscious and giggly teens and young children.
It’s also the case that parents will have the right to withdraw their children from these lessons. So is it really useful and is it really compulsory? Do parents feel it is part of a school’s remit to be offering this personal element to children’s education?
Like with anything related to our children’s education, a supportive and open attitude at home is important. Whatever we think about this increase in sex education in schools it’s more important to see that our children are supported and safe, informed and able to function without threat or fear in the sexual world.
The ‘Live Well’ part of the NHS site offers some pointers to help us do this. They advocate talking to your child openly about the subject, answering their questions honestly, and thinking ahead how you might approach subjects that you might feel embarrassed by. The same approach can equally be applied to their questions about relationships which are increasingly complex in our modern world. We need to be brave, unbiased, ready to tackle emotive issues without shying away ourselves, encouraging and invitational when our children want answers.
This supportive attitude, where youngsters feel able to talk to us when they need to, is what will help keep them safe and healthy.
And perhaps increasing Sex Education in schools will help open up opportunities for us to discuss it when we would sometimes shy away from the subject.