Earlier this month a proposed amendment to the Children and Families Bill, making sex education compulsory in England and Wales, was defeated in the House of Commons.
Did you hear about this in the mainstream media? It seems that only people with a special interest, whether that’s us, or our opponents, are talking about this.
It is, of course, good news that this amendment was defeated, although the Bill was only defeated by 24 votes, which means we should not rest easy.
Why is this good news? Exactly what is taught in sex ed? The Christian Institute produced this document in 2011, informing parents of what was being recommended in many of our schools. According to the report, materials featuring full-frontal nudity were recommended for seven-year-olds (in Hampshire and Sheffield, among other places); and in some areas books featuring cartoon people having sex on a skateboard were recommended for children as young as five. It would almost be funny if these materials were not recommended in all seriousness. Many, if not most, of these resources will still be on different Local Education Authority (LEA) directives.
It is clear that sex education should not be taught in this way, especially in primary schools. Obviously children should be taught about human reproduction, ideally by parents, once the child can understand that for such an intimate thing as sex a committed relationship between the man and woman should already be established (ideally marriage).
Currently no school has to give sex education, although every primary school has to teach reproduction. Where a school chooses to teach sex ed, each LEA may have resources that governors and heads can choose for their schools, with class teachers able to adapt these to the needs of their class. Parents may withdraw their children if they wish.
At the moment, not every LEA has subscribed to these materials, and not every school delivers sex education – even in secondary the programme is non-statutory. But if you live in an area where materials like these are used, and your children’s school gives sex ed, you should consider withdrawing your children from those classes and encouraging others to do likewise. If you are not sure if your child’s school teaches sex ed, ask your child’s teacher.
As for the argument that we need more sex education at a younger age to tackle Britain’s teenage pregnancy and abortion problem, the problem is surely not that Britain’s teenagers don’t know what a condom is: the problem is more likely to have arisen from raising children to have as much irresponsible sex as they like as long as they use contraceptives.
Catholic parents should be involved in their children’s education and aware of the threat that sex education poses – in this life, if children grow up to have a teenage pregnancy or STI, or if they cohabit or even choose an abortion as a result of living the life that sex ed promotes – and potentially in the next life, although fortunately that is not for us to judge.