British secondary schools are required by law to teach the
biological facts of human reproduction in science lessons, but students
themselves often say the instruction given is too biological. The facts also
speak for themselves: Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.
So when Conservative MP Nadine Dorries (pictured) introduced
a private member’s bill last week calling for all schoolgirls aged 13 to 16
to be given lessons in how to say “no”, you would have expected a good
response. After all, she was not asking for the biological bit to be replaced,
just something in the way of character education to be added.
However, her bill just scraped through by 67 votes to 61.
And those 128 votes represent only a fifth of membership of the House of
Commons (650 seats). Further, it is by no means assured that the bill
will receive enough support from the conservative coalition
government. As for the Opposition:
But Labour’s Chris Bryant described Ms Dorries’ bill as “the daftest
piece of legislation” he had seen, saying there was no evidence teaching
abstinence would lead to fewer pregnancies or STDs.
“The single most important thing we can do for any young person is give
them the self-confidence to be able to make good decisions for
themselves,” he added.
But isn’t that precisely what the bill is aiming at? Would he know a “good decision” even if he fell over one?
Wouldn’t classes for girls be a good start? This is something that has
to be done in single sex settings. And Ms Dorries did mention
boys in the House:
“The answer to ending our constant struggle with the incredibly high
rate of teenage sexual activity and underage pregnancies lies in teaching our
girls and boys about the option of abstinence, the ability to ‘just say no’ as
part of their compulsory sex education,” she said.
“Peer pressure is a key contributor to early sexual activity in our
country. Society is focused on sex.
“Teaching a child at the age of seven to apply a condom on a banana is
almost saying, ‘Now go and try this for yourself’.
“Girls are taught to have safe sex, but not how to say no to a
boyfriend who insists on sexual relations.”
A survey of 1,700
parents of UK 5-11 year olds surveyed by the BabyChild website, 59% said
they disagreed with school sex education for that age group. Some 48 per cent
said 13 was old enough to receive sex-ed in school.
Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education — which includes
teaching on sex and relationships — is not compulsory in England, unlike other
parts of the UK, although it is in the national curriculum. Even so, some
councils have approved crude and explicit programmes for primary school
children — including one with a cartoon depiction of a couple having