Pupils aged five should be taught all about sex: Watchdog’s instruction to schools
Daniel Martin Mail
Children as young as five should be taught about sex, the Government’s controversial health watchdog said last night. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence – whose main role is to ration NHS drugs – is to write to every primary school telling it to start sex education when pupils are five. It will tell teachers that children should not be taught to say no to sex – but should learn about the value of ‘mutually rewarding sexual relationships’. Too young? NICE has recommended children as young as five should receive sex educationThe controversial organisation’s draft guidance to schools came out on the same day that it rejected a life-extending drug for non-small cell lung cancer on the grounds of cost effectiveness.It said it could not approve the use of Tarceva as a maintenance treatment, despite evidence it could give thousands of patients an extra three months of life. Sex education is not compulsory in English schools – and even where it is taught, parents have the right to take their children out of lessons. But this guidance from NICE – albeit in draft form – will put greater pressure on headteachers to provide sex education at an earlier age. At present, the only part of sex education that is compulsory is the science element – the human reproductive system and how babies are made. This is taught at secondary school. Guidance from the Department for Education suggests that from the ages of five to seven, children should learn the names of parts of the body, how people change as they get older, the difference between right and wrong, and that friends and family should care for one another. The 74-page document was produced on NICE’s own initiative after it convened a panel of public health officials and representatives from family planning groups to produce guidance on reducing teenage pregnancy.
NICE says that public health is part of its core remit and that cutting teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease would save the NHS money. Schools do not have to follow the sex education document – but it is the first ever comprehensive guide to what children should be taught produced by a Government department. Critics said it was far beyond NICE’s remit and was in danger of actually encouraging children to experiment with sex after learning about it at far too young an age. Recommendations from NICE include teaching children how to put a condom on and that excessive drinking can lead to sex. It advises schools to use social networking websites to get the sex message across and calls on teachers to offer children confidential sex advice if they need it – without their parents being told. The report concludes that sex and relationships education is ‘more effective if it is introduced before young people first have sex’. It says sex education – including information about sexually-transmitted infections, methods of contraception, pregnancy and abortion – can help children and teens delay sex until they are ready .NICE claimed that teaching children to ‘say no’ could actually increase the chances of risky sexual behaviour and pregnancy. Critics last night accused the body of pressuring schools to push the boundaries on sex education and said the guidance undermined traditional values. Norman Wells, of pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: ‘The team that drafted the guidance included lobby groups with an agenda to break down moral standards and redefine the family. Organisations with a commitment to marriage and traditional family values were not represented.’
Margaret Morrissey, of lobby group Parents Out Loud, said: ‘They tell me that once you give indepth information about sex and drugs, 90 per cent will go and experiment – and there’s no way back from that.’ We must leave childhood for children and not rob them of it children are in reception now soon after their 4th birthday what are we doing.
Department for Education would not comment on the guidance.