Children who perform well academically display less "risky behaviour" and practice safe sex, according to Michael Gove.

The education secretary told MPs he wished to make a "deliberately controversial point". He claimed there is a direct correlation between "how well students are doing overall academically and their propensity to fall into risky behaviour".

Speaking at the Commons education select committee on Tuesday, Gove said: "I am all in favour of good sex and relationships education and our investigation into PSHE is an attempt to find which schools do it best because we want to learn from them so we can spread it.

"However, if you look at the way in which we can encourage students not to indulge in risky behaviour, one of the best ways we can do that is by educating them so well in a particular range of subjects that they have hope in the future."

Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) is currently optional, despite Labour's efforts last year to push for compulsory lessons. Ministers are reviewing the content of the module but Gove insisted it was not a school's duty to teach life skills, such as how to wash your hands, in minutiae. Instead, teachers should focus on instilling intelligence and common sense in their pupils.

PSHE, which includes lessons on sex education, also teaches children about drugs, alcohol and personal safety.

But many have voiced concerns over the lack of sex education against a backdrop of rising abortion rates among under-18s.

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According to a series of studies published on Tuesday, Britain has the third-highest proportion of teenagers sexually active at an early age.

And, as Nadine Dorries's foray into sex education proves, the issue is still a hotly-debated, highly controversial and as yet, unresolved, topic.