Ofsted: Technology is shaping boys' attitudes to women

Technology is affecting relationships between the sexes, says senior official

Adi Bloom

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Good sex education is vital in schools to counter the way that technology is shaping boys’ expectations of women, a senior Ofsted official has said.

Addressing a discussion about the role of sex education in schools, Roary Pownall, Ofsted national lead for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, said: “The availability of technology is shaping boys’ attitudes to women, and boys’ expectations of what women can and should do.”

Mr Pownall went on to discuss many of the ways in which social media places additional pressure on modern pupils.

“I often ask people: 'If you had to choose, would you rather grow up today or when you grew up?'" he said. "I’ve yet to meet someone who’d say: ‘I’d rather grow up today.'”

Mr Pownall was addressing a seminar held by the Westminster Education Forum, discussing the government’s plans to introduce statutory relationships and sex education from September 2019.

'Taught not to rape'

His comments about boys’ attitudes to women were backed up by a speaker from the University of York, who quoted a 14-year-old boy saying: “It’s all in nature, isn’t it? Like, throughout the animal kingdom, it’s always males who fight over the female. I think it’s just, you know – it’s inside us.”

By contrast, a 13-year-old girl told researchers: “It is the guys essentially raping the girls, so they should be taught not to do it. Because…you should, like, kill it from where it starts.”

To complement the introduction of statutory sex education, the government will be updating its guidance on delivery of the subject. The current version of the guidance was issued in 2000, and does not tackle 21st-century issues such as pornography, sexting and online grooming.

'Healthy, positive relationships'

The government has issued a call for evidence, asking for teachers, campaigners, parents and pupils to say what they would like to see included in this new guidance.

Addressing the Westminster Education Forum seminar, Ian Bauckham, the government’s adviser on improving relationships and sex education, said that 7,300 submissions had been received so far.

The largest group of contributors – making up 44 per cent of total submissions – was parents. And 1,500 submissions received were from pupils.

Mr Bauckham said: “What young people seem to be saying across the country is, actually, that what they want to know about are the characteristics and qualities of healthy, positive relationships above all.”

Earlier today, school standards minister Nick Gibb visited a school in South London to discuss why it was important for pupils and teachers to submit their views on sex education. 

He said: “We have committed to update relationships and sex education to meet the needs of young people today. Our call for evidence closes next week, and we want as many people as possible to have their say on what the new curriculum should include.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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