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We must stop rushing kids into adulthood with harmful sex education

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IF you grew up at a similar time to me, it’s possible you found sex education more terrifying than informative.

That’s if you had those sort of lessons at all.

Like many people, it is possible you found sex education more terrifying than informative

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Like many people, it is possible you found sex education more terrifying than informativeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Children should be rushed into being adults or bombarded with concepts that they are not ready to grasp

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Children should be rushed into being adults or bombarded with concepts that they are not ready to graspCredit: Getty

Things have changed a lot since then.

Many lessons have become so much more engaging and relevant to children’s lives, rather than a fleeting but somehow still too-close-for-comfort encounter with a 1980s anatomy textbook.  

I’ve seen how good Relationships, Sex and Health Education lessons now set young people up to have healthy, happy lives.

But poor lessons could do the opposite, and there have been a number of concerning reports about inappropriate content being taught in some schools.

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Dangerous influencers

Children must be allowed to be children.

They do need to be prepared for the issues that they will face in the future, but that doesn’t mean they should be rushed into being adults or bombarded with concepts that they are not ready to grasp.

Headteachers and teachers have also been asking us for greater clarity.

So that is why the Prime Minister and I have taken action by reviewing what our children are taught in RSHE classes.

Our plans to amend the guidance on what is taught will be published today, and I truly believe the changes are the right ones for children and families.

We have learnt a lot in the three-and-a-half years since RSHE was made compulsory.

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We have seen how vocal groups have used it to push inappropriate and inaccurate teaching.

And we have ourselves had to understand and support schools with issues like the growing number of children questioning their gender, and have taken action by publishing guidance on how to handle the challenges we know teachers have faced as a result.

The Cass Review hammered home that progressive ideology must never be allowed to take precedence over the need to protect children from things that they are too young to understand.

That is why the guidance we are publishing today will leave no room for doubt, making totally clear that teachers should not teach about the contested issue of gender identity.

Teachers are there to teach children facts, not to push the agendas of campaign groups.

Never again will young girls be led to believe they might be happier if they were a boy, or children to think that there are 72 genders.

The updated guidance will also contain age limits for the first time, making sure topics that are sensible to teach 15-year-olds, like preventing sexually transmitted infections, are not raised with ten-year-olds.

Sex education will not be taught before Year 5, and at that point from a purely scientific standpoint.

In secondary school, issues regarding sexual harassment should not be taught before Year 7, direct references to suicide should not be made before Year 8, and any explicit discussion of sexual activity won’t be before Year 9. 

The guidance will help teachers set children up to better navigate the huge complexities of social media and foster positive relationships between boys and girls.

This will help to counteract issues such as harmful misogyny and gender stereotypes, with more advice about how to protect children from dangerous online influencers like Andrew Tate.

And we are making sure young people understand the benefits of rationing time spent online and the impact on their wellbeing, and the serious risks of viewing content that promotes self-harm and suicide. 

This could not be more important.

I’ve met many bereaved parents and heard their stories, and I know the additional content on suicide prevention will mean a lot to them.

Worried parents

One of the other big priorities for me with this guidance is openness with parents.

Parents are their children’s primary educators.

They have a right to know what their children are being taught, and the guidance is categorical that nothing should stand in parents’ way on this.

There had been confusion about whether or not schools could share copyrighted materials with parents.

They of course can.

Parents are not able to veto curriculum content, but they should be able to see what their children are being taught, which gives them the opportunity to raise issues or concerns through the school’s own processes if they want to. 

I hope today’s publication provides much-needed comfort to worried parents and I look forward to reading parents’ responses to this consultation.

Keegan calls online misogynist Andrew Tate 'dangerous'

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Keegan calls online misogynist Andrew Tate ‘dangerous’Credit: AP
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