Classroom sex lessons: Opponents step up safe at school campaign calling on parents to resist compulsory ‘big brother’ plans to sexualise children and undermine millions of families
17 January 2017
Campaigners are stepping up their fight against controversial plans to impose compulsory sex education in the nation's schools.
Advocates claim the proposals will reduce the use of pornography, sexting and sexual violence among pupils.
But vociferous opponents say the Big Brother plans, recently proposed by MPs, risk sexualising children and young people while undermining the role of parents in bringing up their youngsters as they see fit.
At the forefront of those against the plans is the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) Safe at School campaign, which is urging parents to contact their MP to oppose any moves to make sex education a compulsory school subject.
Campaign coordinator Antonia Tully said:
"Making Personal, Health and Social Education (PSHE) - which includes sex and relationships education (SRE) - compulsory is not the solution to the problems of sexting, pornography use and sexual violence in schools. Recent history is littered with failures of such interventions in trying to change the sexual behaviour of young people.
"Safeguarding children must take place primarily in the home and under the direction of parents, not at school through state control."
SPUC has produced its own guidance for primary schools encouraging them to harness parents as the primary sex educators for their children.
Mrs Tully said:
"The Safe at School campaign asserts that the best place for young children to learn about sexual matters is from their parents, within the family setting. A majority of parents feel able to do this.
"They can give their primary aged children a sense of privacy and restraint about sexual matters. By contrast, schools are encouraged to normalise sex for children and young people by presenting sex as a 'normal and pleasurable fact of life.'"
Mrs Tully - a mum of two school-age children - added:
"Until recently the drive to introduce compulsory SRE has focused on reducing teenage pregnancies. Studies point to sex education achieving little or no impact in this area, despite the decline in teenage pregnancies."
"School sex education does not always deliver the results people expected.
"Indeed, a 2015 study showed that in England the fall in teenage pregnancy seems to have more to do with young people staying in school and getting better exam results, than sex education."
Mrs Tully said increasing access to contraception has long been viewed as central to reducing teenage pregnancies but added:
"A 2016 study found such schemes can actually increase teenage births and STIs. The study also found that gonorrhoea rates for women increased following condom schemes."
"This failure to protect young people in school from STIs and abortions should inform current proposals to make PSHE statutory."
Mrs Tully said parents would be sidelined and undermined by compulsory sex classes for their children by transferring this critical aspect of their child's education to the state.
"This is an Orwellian 'Big Brother' nightmare writ large.
"Where the state takes over teaching children about sex and sexual behaviour, parents receive a message that this part of their child's upbringing is not their responsibility. Children will inevitably suffer as a consequence. Keeping PSHE, and in particular SRE, as a non-compulsory subject, is a vital acknowledgement by the state that parents have a particular role in the sexual education of their children."
Mrs Tully said that the parents who contact Safe at School do not want to keep their children ignorant of sex and relationships but they are shocked at the way in which schools present the subjects to their children. She explained:
"School resources featuring animated presentations of sexual intercourse, ejaculation and masturbation from the Channel 4 'Living and Growing' scheme are still shown in schools."
"These cartoons have been incorporated into other programmes, such as the Christopher Winter Project. This resource distresses parents because, among other reasons, it presents sexual intercourse as a fun activity which makes you happy. There is surely a concern that telling children sex is pleasurable might be making a child more susceptible to sexual predators."
On the vexed question of pornography lessons she added:
"Far from giving clear messages to pupils that pornography is harmful and highly addictive, the approach is that pornography should be explored.
"The assumption is that pupils are watching pornography and any cautionary notes are qualified.
"Similarly, in promoting same-sex relationships parents are undermined as they may wish to present these issues to their children in line with their own values about relationships, marriage and the family."
Turning to the issue of consent Mrs Tully said that while the legal age remains 16, in practice it is widely viewed as being 13. She added:
"The prevailing view is that any sexual activity is acceptable, even lawful, as long as it is consensual. This view is promoted by groups such as the sexual health charity Brook which advises that young people are unlikely to be prosecuted for 'mutually agreed sexual activity where there is no evidence of exploitation.'
"Brook considers the following sexual behaviour acceptable for 13-17 year olds: 'consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability.'
Mrs Tully added:
"Safe at School condemns this approach to under-age sex because it risks making children and teenagers vulnerable to sexual exploitation while parents are left feeling powerless to guide and protect their children as schools promote the idea that there are no boundaries to sexual activity.
"Far from safeguarding children and teenagers, this approach sexualises them and makes them vulnerable. Statutory sex education would deprive parents of the possibility of protecting their children by withdrawing them from SRE lessons.
"We want a national programme aimed at supporting parents to take the lead in teaching their children about sex and relationships, in line with their owns values and aspirations for their children. “Parents are the best people to teach their young children about sexual matters and to guide their teenage children in navigating the challenges of pornography, sexting and sexual violence."
Notes to editors:
Antonia Tully can be contacted on:
Issued on behalf of SPUC by:
Tom Hamilton Communications