In Brief

Schools to cover sexting, FGM and mental health

Opponents express 'grave concerns' about 'implications' of sex education

teachers-school.jpg

School lessons will cover sexting, FGM and mental health after the Department of Education issued fresh guidelines for sex and health education across England. 

In what The Guardian describes as a “long-awaited package” of reforms, pupils will learn about the the dangers of sexting, the importance of getting enough sleep, and how to notice if their friends are suffering from anxiety. 

Children as young as four will be taught about relationships, staying safe online and mental health. The Department for Education says secondary school pupils will be taught about female genital mutilation and other forms of “honour-based” abuse.

These are the first changes to relationship and sex education since 2000. “Almost twenty years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on,” admitted education secretary, Damian Hinds.

However, some parent groups are opposed to sex education being a mandatory part of the curriculum. MPs are to debate a petition today which demands parents retain the right to opt their child out of sex education.

With attendance at such classes set to become compulsory at secondary schools from September 2020, more than 100,000 people signed a petition stressing parents’ “fundamental right” to decide when their children are taught sex education topics.

Dr Katherine Sarah Godfrey-Faussett, the woman behind the petition, said there are “grave concerns about the physical, psychological and spiritual implications of teaching children about certain sexual and relational concepts”.

However, other campaigners are concerned that the reforms could be diluted to appease conservative interest groups. Rachel Krys, the co-director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, is urging the government to launch mandatory teaching on sex and sexuality, gender stereotypes, the law on consent and LGBT equality.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of campaign group the National Children's Bureau, told The Mirror the guidance is “a welcome step forward in preparing children for adulthood, improving their wellbeing and keeping them safe and healthy”.

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