Two Conservative MPs, John Bercow and Robert Key, have joined with Labour and Liberal Democrats MPs in calling for "appropriate sex and relationship education in every primary and secondary school by putting personal, social and health education on a statutory basis as part of the national curriculum." The MPs' letter to The Telegraph highlights:
- The fact that Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe – "five times the figure in the Netherlands, three times that in Germany and twice that in France."
- There were 42,784 abortions to teenage Britons last year.
- Also in 2007 there were 32,000 new teenage cases of chlamydia.
Andrew Lansley - David Cameron's choice as Health Secretary - is sympathetic to an expansion of sex education. Michael Gove's views are not known.
Many parents will question this approach, however. Labour came to power promising to tackle teen pregnancy and the STI problem by expanding sex education and have done exactly that. Rather than 'even more of the same' religious campaigners and moral conservatives believe that the real problem is our culture's sexualisation of children and the absence of strong moral codes.
America has experimented with abstinence-based education programmes although still spends 12 times as much on 'harm-reduction' sex education. This Heritage Foundation paper discusses 21 studies of abstinence education:
"Overall, 16 of the 21 studies reported statistically significant positive results, such as delayed sexual initiation and reduced levels of early sexual activity, among youths who have received abstinence education. Five studies did not report any significant positive results. Opponents of abstinence education contend that these programs fail to influence teen sexual behavior. At this stage, the available evidence supports neither this assessment nor the wholesale dismissal of authentic abstinence education programs."
7.30am, 27th August: Iain Dale thinks the headline for this post was irresponsible. He is, of course, entitled to his view although we'd point to other media organisations who have used similar headlines because the plan is exactly that - sex education of an "appropriate" kind*, beginning at five years of age. What is irresponsible is to assume that more and more of the same model of sex education - delivered in "appropriate" forms at an even earlier age - will succeed when "more and more" has already been tried and failed under Labour.
* You can be sure it would get less "appropriate" once it has been introduced as compulsory in all primary schools.