BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
GOVERNMENT advisers have recommended that children as young as five should be given sex education at school.
A report, published last week, by the -Independent Advisory Group to the Teenage Pregnancy Unit recommends that sex education should now form part of the national curriculum at all key stages. It said parents and young people "strongly" endorsed sex education in secondary schools and it wanted to see teaching about sex brought into primary schools.
"It is important that primary schools recognise sex and relationships education as an important part of personal, social and health education and citizenship," the report said.
Robert Whelan, director of Vamily and Youth Concern, attacked the proposals as tantamount to child abuse and said it represented the bankrapt thinking of an organisation that was out of touch and out of date.
"There's no evidence that sex education of the sort they are recommending is effective at bringing down teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It just shows how bankrupt their ideas are.
"This amounts to a form of child abuse to force information on young children which they are too young to handle and which can affect their own healthy maturity."
Mr Whelan said national abstinence programmes launched in America have achieved a startling success with the national teenage pregnancy rate dropping by 20 per cent. He said the Teenage Pregnancy Unit was "bitterly and irrationally" opposed to any discussion of abstinence and the focus remained on sexually active young people and even greater availability of contraception.
"The Teenage Pregnancy Unit is useless. It was set up to be useless. Family and Youth Concern have never been consulted; no group that supports the family has been consulted. It is a committee of time wasters. All the usual suspects are there and they should get a proper job. These people simply don't know what they are talking about. They have very little contact with actual family life in this country — they deal with abstractions and not reality."
Mr Whelan said both teachers and parents should work together to oppose any moves by the Government to bring sex lessons into recep tion classes.
"I would say this is one area where teachers and parents can make common cause. Just say you don't want it. The teachers don't want to teach this, they are already burdened by the demands of the National Curriculum, They don't want sex education for five year olds to be compulsory."
The government has given a commitment that it will halve Britain's teenage pregnancy rate — the highest in Europe — by 2010 and has focused much of its contraceptive advice on the morning-after pill (MAP), an abortifacient. Use of the MAP is not registered in statistics for conception and hides the true picture of what is really happening with teenage sexuality in this country.
"The beauty of the morning-after pill, as far as these people are concerned, is that those conceptions never show up in the figures. The rate lowers and they can say the policy is a success," said Mr Whelan.
Margaret Hodge, the newly appointed Children's Minister, said the Government would be "pursuing" the unit's recommendations for future work.
Mrs Hodge is already facing accusations of incompetence after it emerged that as leader of Islington Council in the 1990s she had failed to stop sexual and physical abuse at children's homes in the borough. Mr Whelan told The Catholic Herald "she should resign".
Current advice from the Department for Education and Skills recommends that primary schools should have sex education tailored according to the physical and emotional maturity of the children.