Sensationalism unhelpful

7th March 2003 at 00:00
It is disappointing to see a responsible newspaper like The TES take such a sensationalist approach to the serious issue of sex and relationships education. (Opinion, TES, February 21) There is no doubt that poor sexual health is a significant problem in this country, with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and a rising number of sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV. That is why it is critical that we do our utmost to get sex education right.

If we are to do so, however, we need to work to change a culture in which embarrassment about sex is the norm. At its best, sex and relationships education can encourage both adults and young people to discuss sexual matters, which include emotions and anxieties as well as contraception and human biology, comfortably and confidently. By whipping up fear about the content of sex education programmes, however, we simply reinforce the cycle of embarrassment, along with the view that talking honestly about sex is not only difficult but somehow morally dangerous.

The fact remains that, as your leader points out, it is not the responsibility of individuals to decide what they do and do not object to teaching in sex education classes. The law states that school governors and head-teachers must develop a sex education policy in consultation with parents, carers and the wider community, including religious and faith groups. This process enables all those involved to express any concerns they may have, without the need to deny young people their entitlement to comprehensive sex education.

Gill Frances


Children's Development National Children's Bureau

Jo Adams


Sex Education Forum

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