By Luke Coppen CATHOLIC GROUPS criticised an MP who called this week for sex education for children as young as seven.
Dr Evan Harries, Liberal Democrat health spokesman. introduced a Private Member's Bill in Parliament on Tuesday calling for compulsory sex education in primary schools. He believes the measure will help reduce teenage pregnancy and abortion.
But the proposal was criticised by Nuala Scarisbrick of LIFE, who said that it would result in an increase in youth pregnancy, abortion and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
She said: "A policy going on for 20 years of explicit sex education from eleven upwards has manifestly not worked.
"The abortion rates and STD rates have continued to rise with the resulting misery for young people and their families."
LIFE is calling for a thorough rethink of sex education with an emphasis on moral values. "We should be protecting young people, not exploiting them," Mrs Scarisbrick said.
Valerie Riches, director of Family and Youth Concern, said that early sex education would undermine the rights of parents to be the prime educators of their children. "This marginalises parents," she said. "When there is parental involvement there is less likelihood of early pregnancy." She said that children between the ages of five and eleven could not cope with a flood of sexual information.
Currently all secondary schools are required to provide sex education. Primary schools however may choose whether to teach it or not.
Margaret Smart, director of the Catholic Education Service, said that the bishops have encouraged Catholic primary schools to provide pupils with Church teachings on sexuality and relationships.
She said: "The bishops have encouraged all Catholic schools — primary and secondary — to include education for personal relationships or sexuality.
"If this Bill were to get through, and it is very unlikely, the devil would be in the detail. We would be watching very carefully indeed to see what was proposed for the primary curriculum."