Plan to stop schools from teaching sex education to pupils under nine

The government is planning to ban schools in England from teaching sex education to children under the age of nine, as ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton reports

Schools will soon have to follow government-set age guidelines on when they can teach sex education, reports have suggested.

For the first time schools will be told not to teach children any form of sex education until year 5, when pupils are aged nine, according to the Times newspaper.

Other measures set to be announced by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan will prevent children from being taught they can change their gender identity, and prohibits any explicit conversations about sex until they are 13 years old.

Children would also not be taught about contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and abortion until they reach their teenage years.

Government minister Chris Philp welcomed the reports, saying "as a parent myself, I think the principle is the right one."

"Younger children shouldn't be exposed to sexually graphic material, and very contested political questions like the trans debate shouldn't be taught as fact to younger children", he insisted.

The new guidance is reportedly part of the government’s response following concerns that some children are receiving age-inappropriate relationships, sex and health education (RSHE).

The reports say schools will be required to provide parents with samples of the material their children will be taught to quell these fears.

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RSHE was made mandatory in all schools in England from September 2020.

The guidance currently in place allows primary schools to make their own decisions when and if to start teaching sex education and exactly what content is taught.

Secondary school aged children meanwhile are taught more complex topics, including about puberty, sexual relationships, consent, unsafe relationships and online harms.

The topic has become increasingly controversial in recent months, with a number of Conservative MPs saying children were receiving sex education lessons at too young an age.

The 50 MPs wrote that “children are being indoctrinated with radical and unevidenced ideologies about sex and gender”.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said they have "serious concerns" about how age limits would work in practice, and that the leaks in the media about this issue are "utterly disgraceful".

"Once again this government has decided to engage in private briefings and media leaks simply to grab headlines. The children and young people of this country deserve better", said Paul Whiteman, general secretary at the school leaders’ union.

“If what has been leaked is accurate, the government must provide the evidence which unequivocally shows that such age limits will improve the support, protection and safeguarding of children and young people.

“We have serious concerns about how potential ‘limits’ would work in practice. Schools already work hard to ensure that the curriculum and teaching is age-appropriate based on the current government guidance and have the vital flexibility to respond to their own community and the needs of pupils in their schools. “It is hard to see how rigid limits on what can be discussed and when would be in the best interests of young people - and this may even risk them seeking information from less reliable sources.”

The Department for Education said it could not confirm the newspaper reports, and that it would not speculate on leaks.

Labour's Nick Thomas-Symonds said "sex and relationships education is hugely important, and obviously it has to be age appropriate and developmentally appropriate."

"At the heart of this is the wellbeing of children and making sure they're equipped to navigate today", in both their "daily lives" and the "online world".

Mr Thomas-Symonds said it's important to make sure "we don't have things like misogyny and harassment happening in schools".

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