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Sex and the outside agency

The report on a sexual health strategy (page six) is wide-ranging but has a number of clear messages for schools. One is, surprisingly, positive - whatever the deficiencies in sex "and relationships" education, there has been considerable progress over the years, much of it chronicled in the report itself.

It is salutary to remind ourselves of the findings of the 1971 Millar report on moral and religious education (note the running order), that 90 per cent of primary schools did not include sex education in the syllabus for older pupils. Those that did largely confined it to a biological trip around reproduction and menstruation - although, interestingly, 21 per cent of schools did deal with personal problems and relationships even 30 years ago.

The group chaired by Professor Phil Hanlon has not found any alchemist's stone. It rehearses much that is drearily familiar: teachers are insecure, parents are embarrassed and pupils are turned off. Perhaps of all the issues that schools have to confront, sex education is the one that most requires input from outside agencies.

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