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Thursday, August 6, 2020
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Home News Schools must own up about porn in sex education lessons

Schools must own up about porn in sex education lessons

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RECENTLY the Daily Mail covered a story about the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) homework that an 11-year-old Hull schoolgirl took home. Her year group had been asked to define, amongst other things: soft porn, hard porn, transgender porn, and revenge porn. 

Justifying the homework, head teacher Chay Bell said: ‘The PSHE materials that we share with students are produced in line with government guidance, the PSHE Association Programmes of Study and the Sex Education Forum’s definition of Sex Education’. The implication seems to be that this makes it okay.

When the BBC covered the story, they reported that a ‘spokesman for the Department for Education said it was a matter for the school and had no further comment to make‘. This stopped me in my tracks. The Department of Education is saying in effect that the homework is fine. Presumably the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, thinks it’s fine. Yet parents are supposed not tobe worried about the Relationship & Sex Education (RSE) reforms going live in schools this September?

I decided to look further at the source for sex education materials referred to by the above head teacher: the Sex Education Forum, an organisation recently discussed in these pages by Belinda Brown.  Most of its materials are for ‘Members Only’. I have a problem with this: if schools are using these materials, parents have a right to see them. They should be publicly available on the SEF’s website. All schools should also be required to place their RSE material on their websites. Why not? There is nothing that schools should want to hide.

The Sex Education Forum uses a ‘partnership model’. To become a partner, organisations need to be in agreement with SEF’s ten principles. The first principle states that ‘high quality RSE should . . . be accurate and factual’. A good starting point. However, I am not sure that SEF is sticking to its principles. One of its partners is Stonewall. Stonewall says: ‘First and foremost, we need to recognise that trans women are women, and trans men are men.’ That isn’t accurate or factual. In March, Stonewall published a new schools guide, ‘An Introduction to Supporting LGBT young people’. This teaches kids that ‘gender is assigned at birth’. That isn’t accurate or factual.  Maybe the Sex Education Forum needs to review its partnership with Stonewall.

Another of the Sex Education Forum’s partners is the Proud Trust.  An example of their materials can be seen here. A poster headlined ‘Trans in School or College’ tells children that ‘you have the right to use whichever toilet you are most comfortable using’. That is not correct, evidenced by the fact that across the country, councils are now removing ‘trans toolkits’ that state this. The poster tells children: ‘You don’t have to deal with transphobic bullying. This is a hate crime.’ No – if something does not go beyond bullying then it might at most be a ‘hate incident’. This is scary and important stuff for kids to learn about. And this poster isn’t accurate or factual. Maybe the Sex Education Forum needs to review its partnership with the Proud Trust. 

As reported by TrangenderTrend, the Proud Trust has recently produced a document called Sexuality and Gender. Promoted as appropriate as part of a school’s PSHE education, the Trust claims that it ‘meets the needs of all students’ and is ‘in line with the Equality Act (2010) and Ofsted obligations’. Here is an activity that the document recommends as suitable for 13-year-olds as part of their sex education in schools (warning – explicit text): ‘The six-sided dice has a word on each side, Vulva (including vagina), Penis, Anus, Mouth, Hands/Fingers and Object. The game is to roll the two dice and then the group will discuss what sexual activity is possible using the two words that face upwards.’   

Does the Department for Education also think that it is ‘a matter for the school’ if it wants to use this material? Does Gavin Williamson? What is evident is that Williamson has opened wide a door through which groups and agendas will march to foist over-sexualised material, pseudo-science, and misinterpretations of important laws and protections upon our children.

A new heroine has emerged recently in the fight for the sanity and safety of our children. Conservative peer Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne has recently written a magnificant letter to Williamson regarding her concerns over his RSE Reforms. 

Referring to the RSE Guidelines for secondary schools she writes: ‘LGBT is not mentioned with reference to teaching in secondary schools, but Gender Identity is.’ She quotes: ‘Pupils should be taught the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health, and gender identity in an age appropriate and inclusive way.’ She poses the crucial question ‘What are the facts about gender identity?’ What indeed? Mr Williamson – how can children be taught the ‘facts’ about gender identity when no one knows what they are? 

Baroness Nicholson continues: ‘Unfortunately, as offered, the Guidelines leave the door open for anyone to teach whatever they want at any age they consider appropriate . . . we must surely consider carefully the state’s role in telling schoolchildren that a bearded man with a penis can be a lesbian and any girls and boys deviating from 1950s gender norms are in the wrong body.’ We surely must.

The baroness suggests a reform to the RSE requirements. Instead of being permissive, they should be restrictive: ‘Teach this; no more; no less’. I worry that, given the snail’s pace at which government works, this suggestion, if accepted, could take considerable time, and Williamson’s reforms go live this September. But can anyone argue against the immediate requirement that schools publish all RSE materials on their websites? This will enable parents to vote with their heads, hearts, and feet. What possible argument can there be against this?

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Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske is a former adviser to the New Zealand Government, served two terms as a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and is currently a full-time mother. She tweets as @carolinefff

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