What's all this then?

I tweet too much. So I needed somewhere else to start storing all the words. This is it. Think of it as the external hard drive for my thoughts.

I don't have an obesssion, a dream, a fixation or a hook, so don't be expecting a focus here. It's like great big lumps of my twitterings. You may see teaching stuff, rants, maternal anxiety and occasional sojourns away from reality.

Anyway, I like a nice chat so we should talk. By we, I of course mean me...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Yes Sir, we have no bananas today.

Dear Reader,

I feel I have let you down. As a Sex Ed teacher I can only apologise for my inadequacies. It’s time to confess.

I am sorry to say that I have never put a condom on a banana.

Worse than that, I have never taught a primary aged child to put a condom on anything. Nor have I taught them about sexual positions, or taught a “gay agenda” or encouraged any of them to go on the pill.

To be honest, I’ve never taught Sex Ed in school.

What I’ve taught primary school children is Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), which is heavy on the relationships.  And I am thoroughly fed up of hysteria in the media about what children are taught in SRE, especially as Nadine Dorries seems to have taken on Peter Hitchens traditional role of blaming sex ed for everything from teenage pregnancies to child abuse.  Usually I ignore Dorries, because as far as I’m concerned she may as well be sitting under a bridge waiting for the Billy Goats Gruff to come along for all the use her opinions are.  She is either woefully or deliberately misinformed about SRE and seems to have no issues with misinforming everyone else via her inaccurately named Sex Ed Bill.

I don’t want to talk about her, I want to lay down a few facts about how SRE is taught in Primary Schools, just so they’re out there. This is how it really is.
  • SRE features in Science where children are taught that they grow and change from babies to adults. They learn that all living things reproduce. As they reach the end of Key Stage 2 they learn how their bodies will change in puberty, and how to take care of their bodies, with a heavy emphasis on the importance of deodorant. They will learn about external and internal sex organs. They may learn the physicality of sexual intercourse in Year 6. They may not if the co-hort doesn’t seem ready or it isn’t part of the school’s individual plan.

And that’s it for sex. Not exactly scandalous is it? No orgasm tips and no amusingly shaped vegetables.

The rest of SRE is pure R. It’s covered in Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) and it’s all about Relationships.  As children move through primary school they will learn about:
  • Their feelings and how others feel
  • How to make friends
  • How to solve friendship disputes and talk about worries
  • How to ask for help, find support and talk to adults and friends in a range of settings
  • Evaluating risks and make sensible decisions to manage risks in their lives
  • How to make choices based on their own preferences, and how to manage peer pressure
  • The difference between aggressive, passive and assertive behaviour and developing techniques to handle difficult social situations.
  • Some social skills work to prepare them for the reality of Secondary school.

None of this social teaching specifically addresses issues around sexual relationships, but it isn’t hard to see how it could all be applied to managing sexual relationships later on. Children are taught to value and look after their body and understand the importance of assertiveness in friendships. They are taught to look out for potential risks, and risks to others, and to develop skills of seeking help when they need it.

All of these skills not only help young people to develop healthy sexual relationships, but they might actually prove helpful to a child trying to cope with the horrendous reality of abuse, sexual or otherwise. They can’t prevent sexual abuse of children, because the responsibility for that never, ever lies with the child. Whether SRE can really help at all to support abused children is not something I feel confident enough to commit to. What I can say, with absolute confidence, is that “teaching girls to say no” and suggesting teenagers abstain from sex should not under any circumstances be promoted as a way to prevent adults abusing children. Which is a link Dorries made today. No-one who makes such an association should have any say in determining how children are educated about Sex and Relationships in school. Additionally, the worrying emphasis on girls taking responsibility for managing the sexual side of their partnerships should be so obviously dangerous and stupid that I'm not going into it here.

As a teacher, I sincerely hope that Dorries’ opinions do not mark the start in turning the clock back in another aspect of Education, there’s quite enough of that from Gove. This country is making good headway in reducing teenage pregnancies and we’re starting to tackle the more pervasive issue of STI increase. And while there are these needs and while there is still a significant proportion of girls who are left in the Victorian terror of not knowing what a period is when they start bleeding for the first time, we really can’t let SRE slip.

That’s why we can’t let media hysteria hold sway. That’s why I wrote down some facts. That’s why I’m glad you read them. I think they’re important. I’ll leave Dorries and her damaging ideas to others. Just as long as you know what is actually being taught and don’t believe the absurdities she’s spouting, I’m happy. And know this: the only reason I’ll be taking a banana to school is for my lunch.

1 comment:

  1. And this is the letter I've just written to Dorries. I've cc'd it to my (Conservative) MP too.

    Dear Nadine Dorries,

    I am writing to complain about the comments you made on the Vanessa show on Channel 5 today.

    I want to say how utterly horrified I am that you could make an association between the sexual abuse of children and the teaching of abstinence to girls in school. The implication that children are somehow complicit in sexual abuse due to an inability to say no to sex is not only factually incorrect, it is a terrible thing to imply.

    Please know that children are never, ever, under any circumstances to blame for being abused. Please take care not to ever make such a suggestion again. I cannot imagine how painful your insinuation must be for a survivor of child abuse, of any kind.

    This comment you made today has completely overshadowed what I actually wanted to complain to you about, which was your misinformation about how Sex and Relationships Education is taught in schools.

    I will however ask you to stop referring to schools teaching "Sex Ed". We teach Sex and Relationships Education. And this includes many aspects of social skills that are far more effective at supporting young people, boys and girls, in developing healthy sexual relationships than your preferred strategy of teaching abstinence.

    I sincerely hope you will be researching the teaching of SRE properly before your Bill has a second hearing in January. In the meantime, I suggest you stop presenting inaccurate and ill-informed opinions to the House for Commons and the public.

    I will look forward to hearing your public apology for your awful comments about child abuse today.




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