Headteachers warn in opposition to ‘irresponsible’ age limits on intercourse training in faculties

Headteachers have warned that imposing age limits on sex education will prevent schools from countering myths and harmful content children find online.

The Government is expected to unveil long-awaited guidance this week banning sex education for pupils under nine. Teachers will also be told not to have “explicit” conversations about sex until pupils are in Year 9, which will reportedly include topics like contraception, sexually transmitted infections and abortion. Ministers will also insist that gender ideology is a “contested subject” that should not be taught proactively.

Sex education is compulsory in secondary schools in England, while primary school pupils must be taught “key building blocks of healthy, respectful relationships”. The guidance was ordered last year after Rishi Sunak came under pressure from Tory MPs over reports of inappropriate content being taught in schools.

Teaching unions warned against treating children as a “political football” in the Tory culture wars and said they were not consulted on the new guidance. Pepe Di’Iasio, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said schools have had to reassess how sex education is delivered due to the “plague of inappropriate images on social media”.

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He said: “Whilst we welcome the chance to look at this, we also need the flexibility to respond to whatever those needs are. That needs to be supported by clarity in terms of the guidance and also an idea that that guidance has come from evidence-based research, not just something that’s been swayed by backbenchers who feel it’s important for them to gain political points.”

Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said it would be “irresponsible” to shut down conversations on such important issues. He said: “Primary-aged children pick up information online and need the opportunity to discuss puberty and relationships and their bodies with trusted adults.”

NAHT boss Paul Whiteman said they had “serious concerns” about how the ban would work. He added: “We cannot ignore the fact that some children and young people are already accessing information from different sources outside of school. This may lead to questions that need careful handling from trained professionals. It is hard to see how rigid limits on what can be discussed and when would be in the best interests of young people – and this may even risk them seeking information from less reliable sources.”

Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Academy, said that 13-years-old was “too late” to learn about pornography as children may have already seen such images online. “Trust teachers. Teachers are wise. They know the children,” he told Times Radio. “They do appropriate things. Let’s not over-police them.”

A Labour spokesman said: “We have always said that sex education in schools should be age appropriate. Clearly there are materials that are not appropriate when it comes to teaching younger children. We will obviously have to wait and see the detail of what the guidance says, and it is right that parents know what their children are being taught, that schools show parents the materials that are being used in lessons, which is a requirement that already exists.”

The Department for Education declined to comment on leaked reports.