Children will be taught about consent from the age of four in the first update to sex education since 2000, the department of education has revealed.
The full update to the curriculum will be launched this week and will include teaching designed to equip children with the information they need to form respectful relationships both online and offline.
Primary school students will be taught about what consent means and the importance of enforcing and adhering to “boundaries” in age-appropriate classes that will continue into secondary school.
Lessons on the laws surrounding sexual exploitation, harassment and domestic abuse will also be included in the updated guidelines.
The update comes after figures obtained by BBC's Panorama in 2017 found nearly 30,000 reports of children sexually abusing other youngsters during a four-year-long period, 2,625 of which took place on school grounds.
This was followed by a report published in JAMA Pediatrics in January this year, which revealed that one in seven teens are sending “sexts” to one another, a term used to describe sexually explicit images or videos shared through the internet.
“It’s vital that every child knows about their rights and that nothing should happen to them without their consent,” said education secretary, Damian Hinds.
“This guidance was last updated before the children who are at school today were born and, while many schools already choose to teach young people about the importance of healthy relationships, this updated guidance will support schools as we make relationships education compulsory.
“This new guidance will ensure lessons teach children and young people how to recognise when someone else has not given consent and more importantly why they should not to put pressure on someone else to do something they don’t want to.”
The changes come after former education secretary Justine Greening outlined her vision for a revamped sex and relationships education curriculum in December 2017, saying that it should “cover 21st-century issues” such as cyberbullying and sexting.
“We want to make sure these lessons cover sexual health and risks, as well as teaching about consent and understanding boundaries, what a healthy and stable relationship looks like and how to stay safe in the real world and online,” Greening explained in a TES post at the time.
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