The following questions are to prompt parents to take a look at what might be going on in their child’s school. The questions highlight the dangers which parents may be unaware of. Click on the link for more information.
8. Do you know if there is a clinic run by the school nurse operating in your child’s school where the morning-after pill and abortion referrals are available to pupils without parental knowledge or consent?
It is important to do this because all maintained secondary schools are legally required to provide sex education for all registered pupils under the terms of the Education Act 1996. Similarly, all primary schools are required to have a sex education policy even if it is just to say that they don’t give sex education and why.
Since the attempt under the last government to make sex and relationship education (SRE) compulsory for the age of 5, more and more primary schools are adopting extensive sex education programmes. You need to find out what is happening in your child’s school.
The attempt to legalise compulsory SRE failed in May 2010, when the clauses in the Children’s Schools and Families bill were dropped just before the General Election.
But the advocates of early, explicit sex education are still determined to push this through. Chris Bryant Labour MP for Rhondda introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill on 8 September 2010 calling for statutory SRE. This bill will not be made law, but is an attempt to promote compulsory SRE.
The case against compulsory SRE, which is entirely linked to the provision of contraceptives and abortion services in schools, is well documented in this document: Too much, too soon produced by the Family Education Trust. http://www.famyouth.org.uk/publications/too-much-too-soon.pdf. We strongly recommend that you read this publication.
Our advice is always to raise this with the school at the earliest opportunity. It may seem premature to be talking to a headteacher about sex education when your child is going into the Reception class aged 4-5 years old, but some programmes start as young as this. Don’t let sex education take you by surprise!
Certainly parents of Year 7 children should raise the issue of sex education with their child’s secondary school. Ideally, you should find out about sex education – both policy and delivery - before your child starts. For concerned parents this will be a critical factor in selecting a secondary school, where a choice is available.
You should look at all the materials your child will be seeing. There may be a gap between what the school feels is appropriate for your child and what you find acceptable. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be willing either to organise a viewing of these resources at a meeting for parents or allow you to take the DVD home to view.
Here are some of the programmes which we have looked at which illustrate some of the problems with sex education programmes:
All that I am- This programme was produced by the Diocesan Department of Religious Education, RC Archdiocese of Birmingham (UK) in 2004. The programme designed for Catholic schools covers Years 5 and 6 of primary school and secondary schools. A critique of the programme for secondary schools was written by Rev. Dr John I Fleming and is available from SPUC. A significant criticism of the programme by Dr Fleming is that it does not help school students to understand why chastity is a positive option.
This programme was part funded by the government’s Teenage Pregnancy Unit and appears on a list of recommended resources produced by the Sex Education Forum.
A critique of the primary school programme of “All That I Am” (again available from SPUC) was written by a group of concerned parents. They highlight major deficiencies such as mixed group discussions on menstruation for Year 5 children.
A Journey in Love- this programme was produced by the RC Diocese of Brentwood for use in primary schools. The material for Year 5 children (aged 9 -10) lists discussion topics such as “production of hormones triggers sexual desire, arousal and urge”, “evolving a set of values and moral codes”and “risk- taking behaviour”.
The Year 6 material gives an explicit account of sexual intercourse. The glossary of this programme describes masturbation as “commonly recognised as a natural part of growing up”.
Living and Growing – this is produced by Channel 4. It is widely used in primary schools. It is a sex education programme for 5 -11 year olds. The website describes this programme as “gently introducing sex education to younger children, through puberty and birth to media images, same sex relationships and teenage pregnancy. “Challenges beliefs” is one of the many features of this programmes which comes with “curriculum connections” so that it can be used across the curriculum. Many parents are deeply concerned about this programme. Return to the Safe at School campaign page to see more of this programme and to read about one family’s campaign against it.
PSHE covers a wide range of issues including democracy, prejudices, safety on the streets, domestic violence and resolving world conflict. Usually PSHE occupies a small space on the school timetable and tends to be delivered by the form tutor. Although some schools are allocating more time to this area of the curriculum.
The phrase “sex and relationship education” was introduced to replace the term “sex education”. It suggest, misleadingly that only innocuous “relationship” issues will be emphasised, such as parent-child relationship, and the importance of stable and supportive families. In fact it extends the scope of sex education beyond marital sex, particularly to include other relationships including same sex relationships. This is strongly emphasised in Unit 3 of “Living and Growing” aimed at 10-11 year olds. The dvd shows same sex couples kissing.
Concern about text books:
It is important to look at the text books your child is using for PSHE. For example, the educational publishers Folens produce a set of colourful, highly attractive text books. This is one example from a chapter on sexuality:
Drawing of young woman’s face; speech bubble reads “I have had good sexual relationships with men and women but the relationship I’m in now is the best yet. That’s not because he is a man – it’s just to do with who he is and what he’s like.”
Drawing of young man’s face; speech bubble reads, “My partner and I are very happy. He makes me laugh … “
One controversial PSHE Study Guide for key stage 4 (14-16yrs) produced by Co-ordination Group Publications (CGP) is used by numerous secondary schools It recommends ‘sexual touching, talking dirty, even sexy emails and text messages’ as a ‘warming up’ to having sex. The text is littered with cartoons and expressions such as ‘duh’ to make it more relevant to teenagers along with sentences such as, “There’s no accounting for taste. Not every one likes oral sex. Not everyone likes ham and cheese sarnies, either.”
Schools with a Healthy Schools status may participate in school questionnaires. In doing so, the schools are able to cite evidence of meeting required criteria, while policy makers have a convenient way of gathering information. The Schools Health Education Unit based in Exeter, specialises in preparing questionnaire for school students for a number of government agencies wanting information on young people and their behaviour.
One mother has written to Safe at School about her experience of such questionnaires. Describing a questionnaire pitched at 12-14 year olds, she wrote “I recoiled at the thought that my children had to answer the question, “Do you know where to get Emergency Contraception?” Another question began, “Here is a list of contraception…” and the list included condoms, diaphragms, the morning-after pill and sex without penetration. The children were then asked whether they had heard of them and knew anything about them, and whether the contraceptives were “reliable to stop pregnancy” or “not reliable to stop pregnancy”.
The author wrote that such questionnaires were approved by the Senior Management Team of her children’s Catholic school and approved by the diocesan education advisor.
Visiting speakers can be a good resource in schools. However, not every presentation by a visiting speaker will be in keeping with the religious and moral ethos of the school or of your family.
Safe at School has received distressing calls from parents about speakers from gay and lesbian rights groups talking in their child’s school.
One mother, whose daughter attended a faith school, told how a visiting outside agency (Connexions – please see below) left pamphlets explaining how to locally access contraception, emergency contraception, crisis pregnancy advice and advice on gender orientation, despite being assured by the teacher before the lesson that this agency had been given a strict remit and that a teacher would be present in the classroom – she was not.
Parents have reported on speakers from local sexual health clinics coming into schools to talk about deviant sexual practices. One mother described how she was haunted by what her daughter had been told.
School nurses are being promoted as a significant resource in schools in the area of PSHE and sex education. Many parents only have a vague idea of what a school nurse does beyond administering inoculations and dealing with head lice infestations.
In 2006 the then Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health published a document aimed at headteachers titled “Looking for a School Nurse?”
The book lists the range of functions of a school nurse and the “advantages if done by a school nurse.” These include:
Function:”Contributing to the delivery of health education programme, including timetables PSHE classes.
Advantages: “Specialist health education expertise/trusted confidante/expertise in delivery of ‘sensitive’ topics.”
Function:”Provide contraceptive advice to pupils and emergency contraception and pregnancy testing to young women requiring this service.”
Advantage: “Able to assess need and prescribe appropriate medication/provide specialist contraception advice for the future.”
Function: “Offer support and advice to pregnant pupils on making personal and education decisions.”
Advantage: “Trusted confidante/links to other healthcare services.”
(This is clearly a reference to making abortion referrals.)
Function: “Offer support and advice to young people concerned with issues of sexual identity”
Advantage: “Trusted confidante/can offer external support”.
“Looking for a school nurse?” lists 14 functions of a school nurse ranging from bidding for funds for new school health initiatives to providing lunchtime relaxation classes. Such an extensive range of activities maybe attractive to headteachers wishing to present their schools as a place which meets all the needs of its students.
“The School Nurse: Practice Development Resource Pack” published in March 2006 states that as part of “best practice” school nurses should “support young women to access services to make timely choices about emergency contraception, pregnancy or abortion.”
In 2006 a teacher turned to Safe at School for support after this incident. A school nurse gave a demonstration to her class of 13-14 year olds in the mixed Catholic comprehensive school in Kent where she was teaching at the time. This teacher described the nurse “using a plastic model to show these children how to put on what she said was a chocolate flavoured condom. She went on to explain to my pupils that flavoured condoms had been made because prostitutes don’t like the taste of rubber.”
A mother told Safe at School about her distress following a lesson her daughter received at a grammar school in 2005 . “My daughter told me she had been given a lesson in which she was told that that flavoured condoms had been made because prostitutes didn’t like the taste of rubber. Condoms were blown up and allowed to fly around the classroom.
“Pupils were encouraged to touch and feel a whole range of contraceptive devices. They were encouraged to run contraceptive gel onto their noses to get used to the feel of it. They were asked to fit a condom onto a male phallus. They were told how to fit a Femidon; about the dutch cap and double dutch method; where to access contraceptives and emergency contraception and the use of alternatives such as contraceptive patches and injections.
“The age of consent was mentioned but the girls were told that doctors and nurses didn’t really take notice of this any more and that although girls should not try to get pregnant at this stage really, there wasn’t anything that the government could actually do to stop them. Confidentiality was stressed. They gave a condom failure rate of 2% if used correctly. Cervical cancer was not mentioned nor the side effects of the Pill.”
“Much of this was refuted by the school afterwards, but this is what my daughter told me. She was just 13yrs old.”
In 2010 a mother related to Safe at School how she had withdrawn her 14 year old son from a lesson on safe sex, as she was not sure what he might be exposed to. “I was glad that I took my son out of that lesson. He wasn’t very happy about it, but I found out that the lesson was given by a school nurse who showed the boys a model of a penis and gave them condoms so that they could practice putting condoms on the model.”
8. Do you know if there is a clinic run by the school nurse operating in your child’s school where the morning-after pill and abortion referrals are available to pupils without parental knowledge or consent?
An increasing number of clinics are opening on school premises. These are instigated by Primary Care Trusts with a clear role to offer advice and supply contraception and the morning-after pill.
In June 2008 the Sex Education Forum, a government advisory body which is funded by the government, published the results of a national survey of on-site sexual health clinics in schools and pupil referral units. The findings showed that between a quarter and a third of secondary school in the sample of 627 had on-site clinics.
Some clinics are often given teen-friendly names. For example in a grammar school in Plymouth the clinic is called GEMS – General, Emotional, Mental and Sexual. At Paignton Community and Sports College the clinic is known as TIC-TAC (Teenage Information Centre- Teenage Advice Centre).
The recommendation to the government was that local authorities should take a “strategic and coordinated approach to service development in schools.”
As part of the government’s drive to make sure that young people get contraceptives and abortion advice, it has identified schools as being the perfect setting to deliver this. Schools offer unprecedented access to young people away from their parents and families. The Sex Education Forum stated that to ensure that all teenagers access sexual health services, as “a place where the majority of young people go, schools are central to making this vision a reality.”
School clinics have been endorsed by Ofsted. In April 2007, a report from Ofsted, “Time for Change? Personal, Social and Health Education” praised the provision of contraception in schools. The report stated, “School nurses can …provide a valuable service, particularly in terms of providing emergency hormonal contraception and advising on other forms of contraception”.
The most worrying aspect of these clinics is that they operate on a confidential basis. This means that neither the pupil’s parents nor the school will ever know what had taken place there. Teenage girls can be given contraceptives or directed to an abortion provider without her parents’ consent or knowledge.
This is one of the many ways in which government policies exclude parents from their children’s lives in this sensitive area.
Examples of these websites are:
www.likeitis.org.uk This is part of Marie Stopes International, a major abortion provider. Notice the “Hide it” button on the web page which means a child or teenager can quickly exit the page if they think they are being overlooked.
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexandyoungpeople/Pages/Sex-and-young-people-hub.aspx This site is funded and managed by the NHS. The emphasis here is promoting contraceptive use for young people.
These sites alert young people to the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases . However, young people are then given the false assurance that using a condom will protect them. Follow this link to read just how misleading such advice is:
Take a look at these websites. Safe at School has received calls from parents with children in faith schools being given such cards.
This is another example of the way in which parents are undermined and sidelined.
Connexions is a government run service which gives advice to 13-19 year olds on a range of issues including careers, learning, housing, health and relationships. The agenda on sexual matters accords entirely with governmnt policy. Teenagers clicking around on the Connexions website will find that queries about sexual matters encourage them to go to local family planning clinics or the FPA where they can obtain “great advice.”
Access to children:
Maintained schools are legally obliged to give the names of all registered pupils to Connexions.
The up-front image of Connexions is learning and careers advice. Watch out for the ways in which Connexions makes contact with your child. For example, in South London, Connexions posts a well-designed leaflet addressed to the parents of all Year 9 pupils. The leaflet offers advice on GCSE options and vocational learning. In other parts of the country a booklet is sent out.
The same happens in other parts of the country and another mailing is sent out in Year 11 when post GCSE options are offered. On the strength of the leaflet parents may introduce their child to Connexions, unaware of what else is on offer.
Connexions and sexual health:
The sexual health section of Connexions – Direct covers 4 areas:
The following statements are taken from the Connexions website and indicate the approach taken to sexual matters:
· ”Whatever you decide, you will need to go to your doctor. Your doctor will be able to give you information about the availability of abortion services in your area, or if you decide to keep the pregnancy, you will need regular check ups and medical advice throughout the pregnancy.”
· “It's much easier and safer to prevent catching STIs by using condoms with all sexual partners. Therefore, it is the responsibility of both you and your partner to carry condoms and always be prepared.”
Lifetracks is a personal development programme supported and promoted by Connexions in schools.
One teacher has reported on the Lifetracks programme. It has been used for several years in the Catholic school where he teaches English. His assessment of the programme is that it marginalizes the family, and that it contains misleading and factually inaccurate "information" which undermines the authority of authentic Catholic teachers and parents. The programme also promotes the idea that there are no solid norms regarding human life, human love and lifestyles, and prepares children from 13 years old for sexual activity.
Worksheets for children in years 9 and 11 contain 'information' about contraceptives which fail to mention the medical risks to women of taking the pill, nor the abortifacient properties of the 'morning after pill' or certain IUDs. The programme also promotes access to abortion via the Connexions website".
One of the main ways in which Connexions offer their services to young people is through a Connexions Personal Adviser.
The emphasis on the role of the Personal Adviser can be seen in the document produced in 2004 by the Catholic Education Service, “Faith and Young People. A resource for Connexions services, Catholic schools and youth organisations and others with an interest in faith-based learning”.
This document states, “The Connexions PA is central to the Connexions service.” This document also describes the way in which Connexions makes use of a variety of different agencies to deliver their services to young people:
“Connexions partnerships are responsible for strategically planning and implementing the Connexions service. They are required to be multi-agency bodies comprising a range of partners, such as Local Education Authorities, careers services companies, Youth Offending Teams, social services departments, health bodies, schools and colleges and voluntary sector agencies…”
Parents can very easily use track of who is communicating with their child once they are in the Connexions system.
Connexions Personal Advisers have a clear remit to contribute to the government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. A manual for people training to be Personal Advisers features a guide to the most common methods of contraception and sexually transmitted infections. It also includes a list of services, helplines and organizations to which Personal Advisers can direct young people which promote and offer contraception and abortion.
The same manual “Young People and Sexual Health: A reader for those participating in the Connexions training programme” reveals the way in which Personal Advisers are trained to operate.
For example, Personal Advisers are to work with a “confidentiality framework” so that no information is given to parents. The manual also states that “Personal Advisers need to be independent of teachers, and able to offer sufficient confidentiality to build trust with pupils…”
Personal Advisers are also directed to target those pupils who may not receive sex and relationships education (SRE) in school, for example travelers and those in care. This category also includes those children whose parents have chosen to opt out of SRE.
Regarding sexual orientation Personal Advisers are told that “involving parents and teachers can be very damaging.”
The guidelines do stipulate that “Personal Advisers must be aware of – and follow – the established procedures of the individual institutions within which they are working”. Parents contacting Safe at School, whose children are in Roman Catholic schools where there is a Personal Adviser, have received no satisfactory answers as to the training given to ensure that advice is in line with the ethos of the school.
Parents must take the initiative in all these matters. The school will not necessarily contact parents. Although some schools do now email letters to parents (schools can use the ParentMail system designed for this purpose), in many schools the main method of communication between the school and parents is still through letters home in the child’s school bag, and parents know how unreliable this can be.
Many schools now give pupils personal planners for homework diaries and for communication between teachers and parents if necessary. What many trusting parents do not realise is that the school information at the front of the planner may contain details of a confidential clinic detailing where the clinic is to be held and the day of the week and times that it is open.