Today they are asking if parents are leaving too much to schools when it comes to sex education. A look at a certain paper and it looks a lot like the answer is yes. Or rather it would be preferable for neither teachers nor parents to broach the subject of, you know, you know. The birds and the bees. It is, apparently, a parent's right to ignore any signs of their child's burgeoning sexuality and a breach of this right for anyone else to keep the kids informed.
Recent figures from the National Office of Statistics show teen pregnancy rates are at their lowest since 1969. Surely this correlates with both better sex education and easy (ish) access to contraception, the morning after pill and abortion. Continuing in this vein GPs are calling for school nurses to have the authority to give the morning after pill to girls requesting it. Dr Anne Connolly, chairperson of the Primary Care Women's Health Forum is one of those calling for the scheme to be introduced nationwide.
Still there is outrage from MPs such as Conservative MP Philip Davies, not because the morning after pill, the contraceptive pill or implant do not protect people from HIV or other STIs. Which would be a good concern to kick up a fuss about, rates of teen pregnancy might be down but cases of STIs such as Gonorrhoea has increased among young women aged between 15 and 18. Is it because the responsibility of contraception continues to be left to women and girls? No, Davies and Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust believe parents should be informed if their daughter requests the morning after pill.
Wells told the Daily Mail that: “Schemes like this are giving girls as young as 13 a licence to engage in illegal sexual activity and denying them the protection of the law that the age of consent is intended to give...Health workers who provide under-age girls with contraception without the knowledge of their parents are seriously undermining the role of those parents.”
As an adult were I to contract an STI or become pregnant I would go to a health care professional. Partly because I don't think my mum needs to be privy to whether or not I have an STI (I don't, mum) but also because while I love my mum she's not actually trained in the art of gynaecology.
I love my mum she's not actually trained in the art of gynaecology.
By leaving sex education purely to teachers we risk giving children a very unemotional view of sex. Yes the clinical aspect – certainly what goes where – is a necessary part of sex education. It also risks young people don't have anywhere to verify normality. While parents seem to feel alienated from their children's sexual knowledge, it might be more convenient to think of their child as an asexual being but PSHE (and teen pregnancy) ruins this illusion.
An Icelandic sex education video Fáðu já, meaning Get Consent was released this year, drawing attention to another rather vital aspect of sex education neglected in the UK. One that you couldn't effectively teach for instance abstinence – in the sense of an option – without.
I am increasingly convinced that instead of worrying about privacy and parent's rights to know about their child's sexual activity or inactivity, education about consent should be the main topic of PSHE concentration. It is an easier subject to broach and one of the few subjects for which I'd use the (so over used and usually inaccurate) word empowering, without venturing into any awkward sexual health subjects.
Consent. Enable your children to protect themselves and you are, by extension, protecting them.