sexedSex education in schools is at risk of being "watered down" if proposed changes to England's science curriculum go ahead, a coalition of charities and education experts have warned.

The group of organisations, led by the National Children's Bureau, is calling on the Government to rethink proposed changes to the science curriculum that it believes will deprive children of essential sex education.

Misleading reductions in sex ed
A government spokeswoman has said the claims are "misleading" and that the draft science curriculum includes as much sex education as the current curriculum. 

Other organisations who've signed the open letter opposing the proposals include the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Mumsnet, and the Sex Education Forum.

"The National Curriculum science is the only compulsory part of sex and relationships in education in schools and must teach children about how their bodies work to prepare them for growing up and to protect them from harm," it says.

Plans leave a gap in reproduction education
In particular the group is concerned that children will not be taught about sexual reproduction and puberty early enough - and that some will already be experiencing changes in their bodies before they have been taught about them.

The Sex Education Forum (SEF) says that the plans leave a gap in teaching about reproduction in primary school.

In particular SEF highlights the section in the draft which says that six- and seven-year-olds should be taught about the process of reproduction and growth in animals but which also says that at this age pupils "should not be expected to understand how reproduction occurs".

Reliable source of sex information

SEF co-ordinator Lucy Emmerson said: "At a time when children can easily access explicit sexual content on the internet, there needs to be a reliable source of information on growing up and sex. 

"The government’s own sexual health framework calls for an ‘open and honest culture’ and to improve knowledge about contraception, but this is not going to be supported by the science curriculum proposals. These proposals will result in more children starting puberty without knowing what is happening to them and without the words to name genitals. This is a safeguarding issue as well as a health issue."

Sexual reproduction in plants and animals
The group adds that the draft curriculum does not mention reproduction again until the end of primary school when the guidance for teaching 10 and 11-year-olds says "they should find out about different types of reproduction, including sexual and asexual reproduction in plants, and sexual reproduction in animals". 

A Department for Education spokeswoman suggested that the new draft curriculum focuses on core science but an expectation would remain for teachers to cover sexual health when they teach about reproduction that is not mentionned in the proposals.

For more information on the NCB & SEF campaign visit www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/policy-campaigns/dont-take-sex-ed-back-to-1950s.aspx

Posted 12/03/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com