When did you start to think about sex and relationships? When you were 16 years old? Maybe 15? Possibly 14? Or was it even at 12?
Schools are advised to teach sex education from Year Seven onwards, which is 11 years of age. However, the content of the programme is up to the individual schools and there is no statutory requirement for independent schools, academies or free schools to provide a programme. The only part of sex education that is compulsory is regarding the biology of sex and this is provided as part of the science national curriculum. Parents can withdraw their children, up to the age of 19, from any part of sex education, apart from the compulsory biology section. The Government does provide guidance on what should be included in the non-compulsory sections, including building self-esteem, teaching about love and the responsibility of your actions, but this was last updated in 2000.
Rather than just talking about the biology of sex, shouldn’t it be compulsory that the lessons include respect, consent and pleasure? Commonly at the moment, boys and girls are separated during the class, but surely it is vital that both sexes are able to hear the needs, fears and the impact of relationships with each other present?
The majority of young people say they feel their peers’ attitudes towards them sexually shift at age 11 or 12, so shouldn’t we be teaching our young about respectful relationships before that age, not years after?
Is it any wonder that young people resort to the Internet to learn about sex if they can’t find the information in school? Unless we give our young people an accurate grounding in relationships, we run the risk that the only basis for their first sexual relationship is on-line pornography.