Sex and drugs education compulsory for primary schools

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The Independent Online

Primary school children are to be given compulsory lessons in sex education and the dangers of drugs, the Government confirmed today.

The shake-up of lessons is aimed at cutting Britain's high teenage pregnancy rate and steering youngsters away from drug and alcohol misuse.

It will mean primary school children will learn about puberty and the facts of life from the age of seven.

From the age of five, pupils will be taught about topics such as the parts of the body, relationships and the effects of drugs on the body.

As pupils progress through school they will be given detailed information about contraception and sexually transmitted infections as well as the risks of drug and alcohol misuse.

The announcement follows reviews into sex and drugs education in school.

Announcing the findings today Schools Minister Jim Knight said: "Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) should be made statutory. It should be supported by a statutory programme of study in order to give it an increased status in schools and with school leaders."

He added: "We want to be clear we're not talking about five-year-olds being taught about sex. At Key Stage 1 they will be learning about themselves, their differences, their friendships, how to have strong friendships and how to manage their feelings.

"That then allows them in Key Stage 2 to learn about puberty and then about the facts of life, all these sorts of matters."

He added that five-year-olds could be taught topics such as the differences between men and women as well as that animals produce offspring.

But parents could still be given the opportunity to take their child out of certain lessons.

Sir Alasdair MacDonald, head teacher of Morpeth School in East London is to lead a review into the best way to make PSHE - which covers sex and relationships as well as drugs and alcohol and other life skills - compulsory.

Mr Knight said parental opt-out is one of the issues Sir Alasdair will be giving the Government advice on.

Mr Knight said: "I think it's important for individual parents' views to be taken into account in some of these sensitive areas and their right to withdraw from parts of education in those areas that they do not feel comply with their moral views and beliefs and that they will be better dealing with in the home.

"That would be something that would take us a lot of persuading to move away from."