Sexual consent lessons will be taught to children in secondary schools starting as soon as next term (news article here). In the lessons, children will learn about rape, sexual consent, how to say no, and healthy relationships. The lessons will cover everything from alcohol consumption to withdrawing consent. The lessons will be age appropriate, allowing different issues to be covered depending on the age of the pupils present. You can read the full document on the sexual consent lessons here.
The plans seem to have upset a number of parents who feel that 11 is too young for children to be taught about issues surrounding rape and consent. I think that’s a pretty naive view to take. 11 year olds aren’t young children, they are very nearly teenagers who spend their days surrounded by teenagers in a school environment, and they are probably already witnessing a lot of adult things that aren’t intended for their eyes. Whether that’s via their smartphones, computers or simply chatting with friends, it’s important to accept that 11 year olds may not be quite as innocent minded as we’d like to believe.
When children start being bombarded with all of this stuff, and first start to learn about sex, it’s important that this is done in an appropriate and educational way. And that’s why I think the sexual consent lessons are so important, because they have the potential to reach children at an impressionable age and leave them with no doubt as to what is right and wrong when it comes to consent. In an age where the media and, sadly, many people still blame the victims of sexual abuse, it is ever more important that these issues are tackled head on. And where better to start than in the education system?
One thing I think is pretty clear by now, is that we can’t trust parents to teach their kids about sex. Of course, they should be talking to their kids about sex, and it’s vitally important that they cover issues like consent from a young age, but the sad fact of the matter is that many parents don’t. Either they don’t feel comfortable talking about these topics with their kids, or they simply aren’t properly informed on the issues (as a side note, this article is a great place to start if you’re looking for ideas of how to speak to your kids about consent). Whatever the reasons, as a society, we can’t simply rely on parents being solely responsible for teaching these lessons to their kids.
The surprise thing about the announcement, was that the lessons won’t be mandatory. Sexual consent will be taught as part of PSHE lessons, meaning some schools can skip them altogether. Isn’t that a slightly terrifying concept? The idea that even though countless experts have highlighted these lessons as a way of keeping children safe, schools could choose to bypass them altogether. These lessons should absolutely be compulsory, regardless of your religion, background or views on sexual relationships, it is important for all children to understand the importance of consent.
If anything, I feel that these lessons plans don’t go far enough because they only apply to secondary schools. Primary school aged children should also be learning about consent and health relationships in an age-appropriate way.
What do you think about the plans, are you for or against sexual consent lessons in secondary schools?
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