Should parents be allowed to opt their children out of sex education at school?
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Yesterday, Monday 25th February, MPs debated a petition urging the government to ensure parents can opt their child out of relationship and sex education. This debate was in response to the government’s plans to update the sex and relationships curriculum from September 2019. All students will be taught Relationships and Sex Education – topics that the lesson will cover will include teaching about same-sex marriage, sexual identity, menstruation, online relationships, and sexual health. And these lessons will be compulsory for all school-age children. The biological aspects of sex are covered in the compulsory science curriculum. Parents currently have the right to remove their child from ‘relationship’ lessons. Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools, with many primary schools also choosing to teach it. The aim is that all young people are equipped to have healthy and respectful relationships, and to leave school with the knowledge to prepare them for adult life. But the curriculum has not been updated for almost 20 years, and the current provision is woefully inadequate in our modern world.
Young people, when asked about their experiences of sex education at school, often complain about the focus on the physical aspects of reproduction and the lack of any meaningful discussion about feelings, relationships and values. When it comes to your body, it’s important that you have the facts. At present a teenage girl will be taught how to have safe sex, but not how to say no to her boyfriend who wants to have sex. Being in the dark is not doing her sexual health or self-understanding any favours. More open conversation and an awareness of where to go for help and support will ensure that children are aware of what is and isn't ok, how to keep themselves safe and how to recognise abusive relationships. Well trained teachers can provide this opportunity.
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