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Tory Proposals for Sex Ed Reform Labelled ‘Politically Motivated’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak grins widely.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that there will be a review of what and how sex education will be taught in schools.

During Prime Ministers’ Questions, Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge Miriam Cates expressed fears over “age-inappropriate, extreme, sexualizing and inaccurate” content being taught in lessons across the country.

She told the House of Commons, “Graphic lessons on oral sex, how to choke your partner safely and 72 genders. This is what passes for relationships and sex education in British schools.

“Across the country, children are being subjected to lessons that are age-inappropriate, extreme, sexualizing and inaccurate, often using resources from unregulated organizations that are actively campaigning to undermine parents.

“This is not a victory for equality, it is a catastrophe for childhood.”

Sunak responded by telling her that he had asked the Department for Education to review what materials were being taught to make sure that there was no “inappropriate or contested content”.

 “Our priority should always be the safety and well-being of children and schools should also make curriculum content and materials available to parents.

“As a result of all of this, we are bringing forward a review of RSHE statutory guidance and we will start our consultation as soon as possible.”

The PM had also referenced that his own daughter had just got her first phone and highlighted that his concern comes “as a parent first and foremost”.

“I was concerned by the reports that I’ve seen, and that’s why it’s important that we review this and get it right.

“These materials are obviously sensitive. I speak as a parent, first and foremost, rather than a politician. And it’s important that that is age appropriate. And it’s important that parents know what’s going on and have access to those materials. If that’s not happening, then we need to make sure that it is and that’s why it’s right that we do a proper review of the situation.”

Sunak has also mentioned the Online Safety Bill, which will see responsibility put on online companies to control what children can see from their content online if it is deemed ‘damaging’ to them.

The materials and curriculum for sex and relationships education guidance in schools is updated every three years. It was last updated in September 2020, after the introduction that year of compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE).

According to Sky News, James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT called the review “politically motivated” and said that there was “no evidence” that teachers were not following the curriculum.

 “We have seen no evidence to suggest there is a widespread problem with pupils being presented with age-inappropriate materials and if this were the situation, we would expect it to have been picked up on a case-by-case basis.

“There is a real concern that this is a politically motivated review, rather than one based on the reality of what is happening in the vast majority of schools up and down the country.”

“The overwhelming majority of schools are doing nothing more than following the government’s own statutory guidance when it comes to relationships and sex education.”

This comes within days of a number of teachers strikes across the country, among other industries, with educators calling for better funding in British schools. The highest number of strikes took place on Budget Day (March 15), with teachers, junior doctors, and transport workers all staging a mass walkout.

Sex and relationships coach Ness Cooper said, “Many schools outsource lessons in RSE, sometimes ones that their teachers aren’t confident in covering. Many of these lessons are then taught by upstanding organizations that cover and support sexual health, their curriculums are age appropriate. Sex educators aim not only to be age appropriate but all content covered is to help positive well-being, support safeguarding and prevent risks, and teachers should be doing this in a non-sexualized way.”

She continued by saying that subjects that aren’t on the agenda may arise, but that teachers should put the safety of their students first. “Sometimes, things do come up within classroom settings that are beyond teacher and curriculum controls, as students can be curious depending on what is influencing their particular youth culture at the time.

“Any sex educator or teacher who is subjected to comments from students that may go into more adult topics needs to focus on safeguarding and this is why getting RSE trained educators or teachers is keep, as trained professionals can focus on this in a non-judgemental way and maintain safeguarding as a priority rather than let the lesson get out of hand.”

She also commented that she believes that what is being taught in schools is meant to be diverse.

“The curriculum isn’t teaching what many are claiming it is. It’s meant to cover diversity and inclusion, and this has always been the case. This has been shown to help support a wide range of students. It doesn’t teach sexualized content or instructions on adult activities.

“[I] hope they actually talk about providing funding for it since it has been part of the curriculum it has been incredibly underfunded and this needs to change. Funding will guarantee teachers and educators can gain training in the area making sure safeguarding methods are upheld as educators and teachers will [then] be confident teaching the subject and won’t get derailed (although I’m yet to see evidence in this too).”

(featured image: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

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Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases.