Our children live in a different world to the one we grew up in or that is at least as this 40 year old woman sees it. This became even more apparent, a few weeks ago, when the government announced mandatory sex education from primary school onwards in council run schools. To fully put that in context, this means a four year old will now take part in such lessons.
Despite the assurances that such lessons would be age appropriate I am struggling a little to see what this may look like.
Clearly, the world is changing quickly. Cyber bullying and sexting was something I would have never foreseen in my youth. It would probably shock my younger readers to learn that there were no mobile phones when I was growing up and perhaps even more unbelievably, given the extent I now rely on it, there was no internet. Given these technological advances, I suppose it is inevitable that we too must change with the tide of progress. We must accept that the niavity of our children’s youth will be corrupted, to some extent, by the future we find ourselves in.
I cannot and would not therefore dismiss the notion of sex education out of hand. At the very least it cements what a responsible parents has already taught their child about what constitutes healthy relationships, as well as the dangers of sexting, online pornography and sexual harassment and at its best, it makes up the shortfall from a parent reluctant or ill equipped to discuss such things. The question for me is, at what age is it acceptable for the state to join the discussion?
The Department for Education (DfE) has stated that:
‘In primary schools, the focus would be on building healthy relationships and staying safe, while in secondary school it would focus on sex as well as relationships.’
The government will hold discussions on what this will actually look like. What should be taught to children, and at what age, will be subject to a public consultation later this year.