2015031820150321 (R4)

Teaching children about sex is a moral, ethical and emotional minefield, as the latest guidance from the Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education Association has this week so clearly demonstrated. The government had announced that it wanted pupils as young as 11 to be taught about sexual consent and had commissioned the PSHE Association to come up with lesson plans. They've just been published and they include topics such as pornography, sexual images, sexual consent, rape myths and victim-blaming. One suggested lesson asks pupils to imagine what an alien, from a planet where there is no sex, would learn about human sexual relationships from watching pornography. Among other things they'll be asked to discuss whether pornography realistically depicts consent: "Is everyone acting in pornography consenting to the situation?" and "Does getting paid change the situation?" The new lessons could be taught in schools after the Easter holiday, although parents would have the right to withdraw their children from the classes and pornography wouldn't be shown to pupils. It's argued that we want our children to be able to deal with a highly sexualised society, where pornography is easily available and schools help build character in many ways, so why not build it in such an important field as sexual relations? On the other hand, critics have been attacking the proposals; they say the subject is being introduced too early, at an age when children are often emotionally vulnerable. Are these frank - some would say explicit - topics just contributing to the very problem - sexualisation - that they're partly designed to address? Schools are increasingly being expected to teach so-called "life lessons" alongside academic subjects. Are these latest plans outside the proper remit of education or should parents be left to teach their children about such sensitive issues? What should children be taught about sex in school?