MPs Propose Sex Education for Children as Young as 5
Posted Nov 21 2008 4:31pm
Would you want your five year old child to be taught about sex? Ministers are proposing that schools teach children as young as 5 about relationships and older pupils are to receive more specific advice about pregnancy, contraception and sexually transmitted disease’s.
Government figures released yesterday show that in England and Wales, although the numbers of pregnancies are falling, half of pregnancies among girls under 18 are now ending in abortions.
The increase last year among girls under 16 was 10 percent, from 3,990 to 4,376. For girls under the age of 14, the number of terminations increased from 135 to 163, a jump of 21 percent.
The rate of abortions for girls under 18 was nearly 20 for every 1,000 last year, while analysis of recent trends suggests that conceptions among under 18s will have reached 40 pregnancies for every 1,000 women.
In previous generations such pregnancies often led to babies being given up for adoption, but now it seems young girls are choosing to seek a termination rather than go through pregnancy.
In 2000, ministers set a ten-year target to cut the UK’s teenage pregnancy rates by half, compared with a rate of 46.6 pregnancies per 1,000 women a decade ago.
Last year a total of 20,239 girls under 18 had a termination, which puts pressure on the government to introduce mandatory sex and relationship education in schools. Ministers are likely to adopt proposals to extend sex education in all schools.
More than 30 MPs have signed a motion in the past fortnight suggesting that schools must do more. At present the only legal requirement is that they teach children the basic facts about human reproduction and anatomy, as part of the science curriculum.
Putting sex education on a statutory footing would still allow individual parents to take children out of sex education lessons, but would mean that every school would have to teach the subject to minimum standards at primary school age and above.
Julie Bentley, chief executive of FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association), said: “Younger women are making different choices about their lives and choosing abortion over motherhood, but education and contraceptive services will stop them becoming pregnant in the first place.”
Gill Frances, chairwoman of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, added: “We know what works to reduce abortion among teenagers. We need high-quality sex-and-relationships education at school and at home, and effective contraception.”
Just last month MPs voted to keep the legal upper time limit for an abortion at 24 weeks of pregnancy. A total of 35 MPs have now signed a Commons motion calling for compulsory sex education, a campaign also backed by the FPA and sexual healthcare charities.
Chris Bryant, a Labour MP who produced a report highlighting poor sex education in some parts of the country, said the figures made clear the case for statutory sex education. “We have to face facts and make sure children know the facts.”
Antiabortion campaigners decried the figures. Nadine Dorries, a Tory MP who has campaigned for a reduction in the time limit, said: “Teenagers have never had so much sex education taught so badly, with almost no access to help where and when they need it most, resulting in a distressing and life-altering spell in an abortion clinic.”