Sex education campaigners are urging clearer guidelines and more support for teachers as a way of reducing teenage pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections.
The Sex Education Forum this week celebrated its 10th anniversary by launching a charter for effective sex education.
Health professionals, including the British Medical Association, have sought a stronger emphasis in the curriculum on health promotion and sex education. They want personal and social education (PSE) to be given a higher profile in the forthcoming curriculum review.
Teachers' present difficulties with the subject have not gone unnoticed by pupils. A Sheffield Hallam University survey of teenagers found that a common complaint was that pupils gained little useful information about sex or relationships, but learned a lot about rabbits.
Gill Lenderyou, senior development officer of the forum, said: "We know that many teachers feel ill-equipped to deliver PSE programmes, and that sex education can often be sacrificed to the pressures of an overcrowded curriculum."
Current legislation created confusion, particularly over confidentiality, she said.
"The majority of young people want sex education from their schools as well as from their parents. We owe it to them to ensure that the law is clear, that PSE has an undisputed place in the curriculum and that young people have well-informed adults with whom they can share their thoughts and concerns, " she said.
The main points of the charter are that: * All children deserve effective sex education that complements their parents' teaching and prepares them for fulfilling relationships; * Teachers should be given the skills and knowledge needed to deliver sex education, both through initial and in-service training; * The Government should adopt the forum's definition of sex education, with support and guidance jointly agreed across relevant departments and agencies; * All schools should set out clear and measurable objectives for personal and social education programmes.
The charter can be found in full on the forum's website at www.ncb.org.uksexed.htm