Every year it comes around.
Summer term and the beginning of Sex and Relationship Education.
Every year I dread it.
I dread the point when I have to tell the children that it's coming up. I dread the point that as a teacher I have to say the word 'sex' in the classroom whilst trying not to blush, snigger or look slightly mortified.
It's a difficult topic. As a teacher I completely understand that our role is to educate children, about whatever we're told to, Maths, Literacy, Geography and if it's on the syllabus then Sex and Relationships too. However as a parent, I can't help but feel that the responsibility is our own. In deciding to have a child I made the commitment to raise her and if that involves teaching her about Sex Ed then that's fine by me. My own parents gave me 'the talk' when I was around eight. I wasn't embarrassed, they knew me and the knew my own maturity levels, so they were the best people to give me 'the talk'.
I appreciate that being open and frank with children means that as teachers and parents we have some influence over how children view sex and relationships rather than hearing snippets about things in the playground or on TV. In today's world sexual imagery is everywhere, music videos, fashion, TV. Gone are the days when primary school girls are happy with the cute cats and glitter jeans Tammy Girl used to provide. Our children live in a different world and times have changed. I don't want to sweep all of sex education under the carpet. Just some of it – for now.
I don't want us to jump straight into sex on the first date – well in the first lesson. I think before we start to mention sex, schools ought to teach body confidence lessons. We ought to teach self respect and self-esteem. That's for girls and for boys. Boys are under as much pressure now as the girls.We ought to teach about relationships. What is a relationship and how does it work? We shouldn't have to watch what we say constantly, I mean goodness forbid we mention the 'M' word (marriage) in a good light in the classroom. There are all different types of relationships, we should teach about them. Ofsted found that children's knowledge of the biology of sex was good, but much weaker around relationships.
Every year in class we have a question box. The children anonymously write down questions and drop them in the box. Every year it just reminds me that these children aren't ready for the information we're giving them.
Some of the material provided to us in schools seems to border on the explicit and this year my teaching partner and I decided not to show some of it. After delivering the material, what types of questions were the children dropping into the question box?
'Why doesn't the hair on your arms grow as long as the hair on your head?'
'What happens if I like a boy?'
'If I like a girl in my class what should I do?'
'What does it mean if you 'fancy' someone?'
'Do boys get breasts too?'
'Does it hurt when your beard starts to grow?'
'Why do we have eyebrows?'
'Will I bleed to death when I start my period?'
They want to know about body hair, and the early beginnings of young relationships. They listen to what we've said about sex and puberty and the majority of them disregard it. They want to know about the issues that they're concerned about right then and there.
This often makes me think that they weren't ready for sex ed in the first place and we're trying to stop our children being children. Yes, sex education in primary school might reduce teenage pregnancies, but couldn't it also show an increase in our children becoming curious about these things we're teaching them.
So, what am I saying? Basically? That's it's difficult. Each child is different, and they're ready for 'the talk' at different ages. I don't know exactly how you tackle that as a teacher, maybe we should leave sex ed until secondary school. That gives parents as much opportunity as possible to educate their own children and if they don't? Then teachers step in in secondary school.
Would I pull my own child out of sex education in school? No. Because I'm hoping it will complement what we're going to teach her at home.
What do you think?
Should we be teaching sex education in schools?
Becky started blogging in 2009, as a way to stay in touch with family and friends scattered all over the world. A busy mum of one, Becky is a lover of life, optimism and all things yellow. She is the author of Ar-Blog, a photography focused family blog.
Blogs at: Ar-Blog