The Times quotes Safe Schools Alliance in its report today on the dangerous and misleading “sex education” from external providers that some schools are using for Relationships and Sex Education. The article particularly focuses on the provider Bish which offers an online resource for teenagers and parents. The Times reports that this describes prostitution as a rewarding job, contains links to BDSM “kinky lists” and delivers advice for parents on showing their children how to masturbate.
In the absence of a properly regulated approach from the Department for Education, schools have been left to provide the mandatory Relationships and Sex Education lessons using any resource that they wish to. Often they turn to external providers who claim to offer expertise on a subject that many teachers do not feel qualified to teach. Many of these providers seem to believe that as long as they have given a positive description of every possible sex act that every young person in a class might have heard of they have done a good job.
We have been raising concerns about Bish, The Proud Trust and Educate & Celebrate for some time now and we are very pleased to see that these are being recognised. There is more information in our Parent’s Guide to PSHE and RSE Providers about the detail of what these and other external providers are actually saying to schoolchildren.
The MP Miriam Cates gave a speech in parliament on the 30th of June where she listed some of the most damaging RSE materials provided by third parties: She spoke about the safeguarding failures that are happening through the use of “deeply inappropriate, wildly inaccurate, sexually explicit and damaging materials in the name of sex education.” She noted that it has been left to groups such as Safe Schools Alliance to support parents in challenging these materials.
Cates observed that
We do not try to teach babies to read or teach quantum mechanics to six-year-olds, because they are not developmentally ready, and neither should we teach about sexual pleasure or gender fluidity to pre-pubescent children or about extreme sex acts to adolescents.
We agree with this statement. We support factual and age-appropriate sex education that allows children to understand how their bodies work. Schools should teach about sex, but this does not mean delivering a checklist of all the things that it is possible to do with different body parts and objects.
Linking to websites which provide a selection of options for dominance and submission such as choking and beating is also completely inappropriate. Teenagers do not have the mental capacity to assess, understand or challenge practices that are presented as “liberating” and “empowering” but may be anything but. Providing a teenager with a list of descriptions which sound like an instruction manual to feel good does not mean that they are truly consenting or informed, and is something that could be easily exploited in the wrong relationship.
Lessons must teach about consent in a way that keeps in mind that some children will have been sexually abused. They must make it clear that a physical pleasure response does not equate to consent. Lessons must make it clear that what is important in a sexual relationship is compatibility of desires, trust, and an equity between partners.
You can watch our spokeswoman Tanya Carter talking about our approach to sex education on GB News.
Miriam Cates stated in her House of Commons speech that “In the light of the Cass review interim report, the Department must write to schools with clear guidance about socially transitioning children, the law on single-sex facilities and the imperative to include parents in issues of safeguarding. The Department should also conduct a deep dive into the materials being used in schools, the groups that provide such materials and their funding sources… The RSE guidance and framework must be rewritten with oversight by experts in child development and put on a statutory footing to determine what should be taught, when and by whom.”
We agree with these statements. We would like to add that this is not and should never be a party political issue. This is a child safeguarding issue.