Sex education curbs 'will mean more pregnancies': Concern over limits to confidential advice for children

PROPOSED government guidelines on sex education will condemn thousands of teenagers to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, health educators warned yesterday.

Under draft guidelines to be published by the Department for Education next month, a teacher who gives a pupil under the age of 16 confidential advice about contraception and sex without the parents' knowledge may be guilty of a criminal offence.

A survey by the Family Planning Association (FPA) found that teacher confidentiality is vitally important to 13- to 15-year-olds. More than 80 per cent would like to talk to their teachers about contraception and related subjects, but fewer than a third of this group said they would do so if they knew the teacher was likely to tell their parents.

Doreen Massey, Director of the FPA, said the guidelines would deprive young people of vital information and were out of line with the Government's target of reducing teenage pregnancies by half by 2000.

Ms Massey also criticised the Government's decision last week to ban a sex handbook for teenagers because it was 'smutty'. Ms Massey said: 'You see worse things in a teenage magazine. I support any information that helps young people make decisions about their sexuality.'

The book was published by the Health Education Authority (HEA), which also commissioned the new survey. No representative of the HEA was present at the press conference in London yesterday, giving rise to further speculation about the authority's future. It is currently under review by the Government in the wake of several high-profile disagreements with ministers over sex- education issues.

The HEA is leading a campaign with family planning organisations, the National Aids Trust, the British Medical Association and other health organisations to persuade the Government to reconsider guidelines on sex education which are being revised in accordance with the 1993 Education Act. Under the Act, sex education will become a compulsory subject in secondary schools from the autumn. The organisations oppose an amendment to the Act which allows parents the right to withdraw their children from any sex education falling outside the requirements of the national curriculum.

More than 500 teenagers who took part in the survey were unanimous that all aspects of sex and personal relationships should be taught at school. Eighty per cent believed parents should not be able to withdraw their children from lessons. Although more than 90 per cent thought their parents should talk to them about sex, about half said that parents get embarrassed if their children raise the subject.

Alison Hadley, of the Brook Advisory Centres, said that there were 8,000 pregnancies among under-16s each year. She said: 'We are not equipping them to go out on Saturday night and negotiate a safe sexual relationship.'

Many teenagers' first experience of sex was an unplanned encounter on a Saturday night, Ms Hadley said. They were unlikely to talk to their parents on Sunday morning about what had happened. But they were still free to talk to teachers on a Monday about where to go for help or emergency contraception. Ms Hadley said: 'If teachers are inhibited about what they can say, it will condemn many more (young people) to the misery of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders