Government’s relationship education for children: media reaction

Keith Sellick trawls the right-wing and left-wing press for their take on should children have relationship training

Right, settle down and stop giggling at the back, we’re going to talk about young people and sex.

Years ago, with 30 of my fellow 12-year-olds, I had to watch a grainy black and white film about human sex. A dull lesson enlivened by my friend making Benny Hill style “gwwwaaoor”, “phhwwwoaoor” sounds at the back and being given a stiff telling off by the science teacher.

Yet there are people who think that even a grainy B/W film is a concession too far. Government plans to update relationship teaching for primary school children has spurred the right-wing element of the fifth estate to attack “Compulsory lessons in drugs, alcohol and sex”.

Put The Daily Telegraph to your ear and listen to the sound of columnists foaming at the mouth. One, the remarkable Gerald Warner, raged about how the government abused children, claimed relationship education was the same as issuing pistols to cut gun crime, and ended with some ludicrous Auschwitz comparisons.


At first “compulsory lessons in drugs, alcohol and sex” sounds like being on tour with a debauched rock band from the 1970s. But as ever with the foam-at-the-mouth brigade, the story is more complicated. The government said it had no idea of what the content of such education should be and was planning on another review of the education programme. It just believes that young children should be told about relationships, along with many other things, and teachers shouldn’t avoid talking about sex. Children afterall are curious.

Therefore, the scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life when John Cleese mounts his wife in front of a class of bored boys will not be performed in a thousand schools across the country.

Instead, we will have to put up with more outraged journalists becoming hotter under their tightly buttoned tweed suits.

• Meanwhile, Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail adds his righteous anger to the mix by asking why paedophiles grooming children for sex are imprisoned yet “if the government says it wants to talk dirty to primary school pupils and groom the young for sex, this is praised as enlightened social policy”.

State paedophilia appears to be a worrying and consistent theme with the foam-at-the-mouth brigade.

Hitchens has also found more enforced sex education horrors in the wood-whittling world of the scouts and guides. These movements are to have their fine traditions of cold showers for “impure” thoughts – as recommended by founder Baden Powell – undermined by what Hitchens describes as the “sex education fanatics”.

Now Baden Powell’s successors have capitulated to free loveism and are “simpering ingratiatingly as they mouth the standard excuses”, says Hitchens. He quotes scathingly chief scout, Peter Duncan: “We must accept that a third of young people are sexually active before 16 and many more start relationships at 16 and 17.”

Maybe, Hitchens worries that all those hormonal youths, popping out of their uniforms and into their tents will suffer too much “simpering” and “mouthing”.


While the objectors rely on ignorance to do its work – like the state of bliss Adam and Eve were in before they went scrumping apples – the Sex Education Forum is leaving nothing to chance.

The forum has appointed a new “tsarina” – no not Catherine the Great (that rumour was a slander, she only had a few flings with army officers) – but one Jane Lees. She was originally at NSCoPSE and contributed to PSHE, which sounds like what you do in a wood in the west country when you imbibe too much ale, “I am just going for a pshe ins copse”.

Lees will “work to ensure all children and young people receive their entitlement to good quality sex”., says the media release.

Entitlement? Good quality sex? Is this a plot to thrust an obsession with libidos down the bemused throats of our teenagers?

We middle aged folks at Comcare Towers are feeling left out – in our day, it was cider-fuelled gropes at parties and puppy love at the cinema.

Sex and relationship education are important to help develop well balanced young people. But let’s lighten up a bit and laugh about at our teenage follies and, dare I say it, not to feel pressured either way.

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