In Brief

Sex education: what's being taught and when?

MPS argue primary school children should be taught about sex, but that parents should still be able to opt out

Sex education should be compulsory across all state primary schools in order to protect young children from abuse, a committee of MPs has urged.

"Young people have a right to information that will keep them safe," the Commons Education Committee chairman Graham Stuart told the BBC

The committee said that sex and relationship education forms an essential part of any school's "efforts to safeguard young people from abuse" and is crucial to protecting the most vulnerable children in society. 

The report said the subject's lack of statutory status meant that it was often sidelined, with teachers denied adequate training. The government has promised to consider the committee's findings.

What's currently being taught and when?
At state schools

Sex and relationship education (SRE) is currently compulsory in council-run secondary schools. It involves teaching students about reproduction, sexuality and sexual health. From the age of 14, pupils begin learning about sexually transmitted disease and practising safe sex.

At primary schools, children under the age of 11 do not receive education beyond the basic biology outlined by the national curriculum. 

At private schools, academies and free schools

Sex and relationship education is not compulsory at any level of education, as each school is free to opt out of the national curriculum. However, if they do choose to teach the subject, schools are required to follow government guidance.

Parents have the right to withdraw their children from any aspect of sex education lessons that do not fall under the statutory programme of study for science under the curriculum.

The committee agreed that this should continue to be protected by law. "Parents have rights, too." Stuart told The Guardian. "They must keep the right to withdraw their children if they are unhappy with what the school provides."

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