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Wednesday, 22 March, 2000, 15:03 GMT
Sex education - whose responsibility?

Teachers in England will be expected to teach about the importance of marriage and stable relationships in sex education lessons.

Teenage pupils will also be encouraged to consider the benefits of celibacy - with advice to be given about the advantages of delaying becoming involved in sexual relationships.

The proposals are part of a deal in which the government intends to remove legislation that bans local education authorities from 'promoting' homosexuality in the classroom.

But who should be responsible for deciding what children learn about sex education? Should the government be giving young people moral advice? Will parents want their children to be given an "approved" version of family life? Will pupils in single-parent families or gay pupils feel excluded?

Thousands of kids decorate their bedroom walls with posters of Boyzone where one of the band members is openly gay. Kids live in the real world and choose their own role models. Teachers also have to deal with the real world.
JN London, England

It is the responsibility of schools to supplement the parents' teachings or if necessary to teach the child fully. It is the government's responsibility to ensure fair and equal sex education that discusses all aspects of sexual life including homosexuality. I was not taught about homosexuality or bisexuality as part of my sex-education at school, and have found this has made it quite difficult to cope with my own bisexuality. I firmly believe that myself and my contemporaries would have benefited from a discussion on the subject.
Katie, England

I was recently asked what the difference is between training and educating. Who would want their children to be involved in sex training at school?
Ian, Germany

Allow teachers to instruct pupils on the mechanistic aspects of sex, but as far as "morals" and the "value of marriage" and all this other propaganda is concerned, leave it to the parents, or if they cannot be bothered, allow the child to form his/her own view in time. Of course the whole thing is made doubly difficult due to the fact that we, as a nation, are completely repressed and hung up about anything vaguely sexual.
Simon Moore, UK

So Richard Morgan of Canada thinks gay people should feel excluded. If a heterosexual husband and wife are to be the only valid form of relationship he would do well to remember that heterosexual couples have produced all known homosexuals.
John, St Albans, UK

Our sex education should follow the same patterns as our religious education. By this it is the school's responsibility to not only teach the majority view point (which in England is Christianity and marriage) but also to teach understanding and tolerance of other practices (be that Hinduism or homosexuality). The parents can take it from there.

A revolutionary idea may be to bring teenagers themselves into this debate.

Joanna, England
A revolutionary idea may be to bring teenagers themselves into this debate. I think they are probably already more aware than they are given credit for. Do people really assume that if a teacher does not directly introduce ideas such as safe sex or homosexuality that young people will not come across them?
Joanna, England

Children should have the right to do what they want - all the schools need is a whole day on sex education and then it's up to them.
Becci, Wales, UK

David, UK must be a young chap. He suggests we "get rid of outdated Victorian attitudes to sex education". To my knowledge, the Daily Mirror was stridently calling for this at least 50 years ago and whatever "Victorian" mores still existed then were quickly disposed of in the next 15 years. So that's not the answer me young fella!
David, Canada

I believe promoting a stable milieu for families, such as marriage, is a step in the right direction.

John, Canada
First and foremost the responsibility for sex education rests with the parents. Unfortunately, in today's society many parents have abrogated their responsibility, not only in sex education but many other aspects of life as well. There is no doubt that in the majority of cases, children who come from stable family relationships turn out to be the most successful citizens.
If a program in sex education is provided to teachers, which was drawn up by government with input from the medical profession and the public at large, I would see no problem with teachers discussing such issues with students. I believe promoting a stable milieu for families, such as marriage, is a step in the right direction.
John, Canada

Just what does society expect teachers to be? Surrogate parents? When are governments going to learn that parents have to take some responsibility for the upbringing of their kids. I don't have a problem with schools providing some instruction but parents must shoulder the "burden" of sex education for their own children.
David Cowley, Australia

I think that we should teach our children about how they were created and how they were conceived. This has nothing to do with being gay. If you want to talk about sexuality I think that is left for another area of education. Sex education is about telling kids how to be responsible and how not to get landed with a baby at 13. Who must decide on what the children are allowed to be taught? I think that each school should show fathers and mothers what they are prepared to teach and some form of vote should be taken in each school.
James Clarke, Britain

So, now as well as teaching an hour of maths, an hour of English and science every day, we are expected to find time to stress the importance of marriage. Perhaps the government will call it the National Marriage Strategy and have strict guidelines on how to teach e.g. 10 minutes mental warm-up on why we should get married. 30 minutes role play, pretending to be married. And finally a ten minute plenary, discussing sex (i.e. after marriage). As a teacher all I can say is I want a divorce from David Blunkett.
Ian Marks, England

I really don't understand what they mean by "promoting homosexuality" - do they mean they'll be saying "be gay - it's great !!"?!I think using the 'promotion' word is just propaganda from anti-gays to scare people into pushing homosexuality back into the shadows. Sexuality is surely something that you can't force anyone - let alone rebellious kids - into... - your sexuality will eventually make itself known sooner or later. Knowledge is power - we should be treating adolescents with a bit more respect and giving them ALL the information they need to help them make their own, hopefully sensible decisions about when/were/with who & what they do about their first sexual encounters ....
Shelley, UK

Sex is a perfectly straight forward biological function whose understanding can be easily accommodated in a couple of biology lessons at school. It's the unhealthy interest of man in all of sex's perversions that has lead to the current obsession with the idea that children need sex education. This degeneration over the last forty years, promoted by numerous commercial interests, has resulted in the widespread spread of disease, infanticide and emotional confusion that the children of this generation now experience. Enough of the tommy-rot I say!
David Baynes, Canada

Education be it about sex or any other thing is delivered by qualified educators or through personal experience. The first so called qualified educators children come across are their parents. Todays children are tomorrows parents. Therefore it is an absolute necessity to make tomorrows educators qualified be it in school, at home or in friends circle or the so called society - including religious congregations. But do not indoctrinate them. Present them all facets of reality and let them choose to decide what is suitable for each of them. At the end they will do what they perceive suitable and register it under the heading "personal experience".
M Singh, Switzerland

I am originally from a Third World country {India} so you can imagine that talking about sex education there is a taboo subject. But that is the hypocrisy of the society. Sex education is as important to young people as any other subject of interest. Hence, they should be told the FACTS of sex education and left alone to make their individual choices.
Reetu, USA

I am a nurse. Human behaviour is something that is learned throughout life - it is not something teachers can teach in an afternoon session. However, the mechanics of sex, the biology of life is an important aspect which many adults do not understand. It is only when the mechanics are understood that informed decisions can be made about contraception and so on. The UK has the biggest rate of teenage pregnancies in Europe. We need to be more open about sex and sex education - Scandinavian countries are more open and have much lower teenage pregnancy rates. Government ministers want to get rid of outdated Victorian attitudes to sex education.
David, UK

There is a big difference between sex education and morals. The former may indeed be taught at school but the latter should be decided by the child's parents and taught by them.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK

I wonder if Richard Morgan is for real, or whether he's just trying to wind people up. Does his bible really say that we should make certain classes of people feel excluded or inferior? Were they not after all made by a perfect God, according to his philosophy? There is a genetic element to homosexuality, which indicates that gay people are born - it's not a matter of choice. How can he condemn or exclude them for this? Would he do the same to disabled people because they are in some way "imperfect"? In any case, according to Richard's beloved Bible we should hate the sin but love the sinner, so even if he does believe that homosexuality is in some sense 'sinful', it hardly seems a Christian thing to do to, as he puts it, exclude these people. Judge not, lest you be judged!
Dr Wilson, UK

While schools still teach evolution and are antagonistic towards the Bible how can they hypocritically teach about stable relationships and marriage? Evolutionists have no right to marry - it is a purely Biblical institution.
Richard, North America

I really can't understand this issue at all. No matter what your views on sex education and what constitutes a proper family, this is surely too important an issue for a parent to entrust to a teacher! It is surely the duty of any responsible parent to look after the moral welfare of their offspring.
Rob , United Kingdom

Teachers do not need to do more sex education, and it is not their right nor duty to teach schoolchildren about relationships - never mind with the bias intended by Tony Blair. Relationships, if they need to be 'taught' at all, should be taught by the parents, who may be married or unmarried, heterosexual or homosexual, or follow a relationship according to a certain faith. To teach children about heterosexual, married, Christian relationships displays unbelievable bigotry and WILL serve to exclude those whose parents aren't, as it seems, the same as the Blair family. Presumably Richard Morgan in Canada, comment on this page, would also think it would be good that non-white, or non-Christian, children should be made to feel excluded? That view does not sit very well in today's England, even if homophobia, unfortunately, does.
Col, England

Parents and school. School because if the parents are abusive there should be a place where the child can learn about normal behaviour. Parents because most normal parents would NOT encourage their children to experiment with homosexual practices or any other deviant behaviour.
Carys, UK

As a young gay person I feel that young gay people at school will be left in a situation where they feel outcasts because of the teaching about marriage. This will inevitably lead to gay youngsters feeling more marginalised than they are now.
Andrew Smith, England

I think this is a step in the right direction. Teaching the need for stable families, with a heterosexual husband and wife, is the ONLY way that is right. I think it will be good if those with homosexual leanings feel excluded. Then they will learn that only heterosexual relationships with one partner are right (as the Bible says very clearly and wisely).
Richard Morgan, Canada

Schools should teach children from an academic perspective, and be informative rather than judgmental.

Kevin, UK
The responsibility of teaching firmly rest with the parents. Parents have the right and responsibility to raise their children. This includes details regarding religion, family education (including all aspects of sex when they become mature enough to comprehend them), Finance and other aspects which are not covered from an academic perspective.
Schools should teach children from an academic perspective, and be informative rather than judgmental. When it comes to sex education they have the responsibility to inform them that homosexuality happens, but not tell them that it is right or wrong.
Kevin, UK

I believe that parents are probably the last people who should decide what children learn about sex education. Parents would probably prefer it if their kids were taught that absolute minimum.
Children need to be able to discuss sex openly, the more confident they are about with subject of sex the less likely they are to be pressurised into sex or to have unprotected sex. I do agree that long term relations should be promoted. However one part of the proposals worries me and that is the term appropriate material, who will decide what is appropriate.
Jon Lappin, UK

The facts should be just that - THE FACTS. Not the views of religious groups.

Brian, UK
It is not the place of the government to tell people exactly what to do with, and how to live, there lives. Education should be about telling people the facts and then letting them make up their own minds about what it right to do.
The facts should be just that - THE FACTS. Not the views of religious groups (Marriage is best and everything else is somehow inferior) or far right groups (Homosexuality is bad and should be banned and never spoken of), but information that enables these young people to make a decision for themselves.
Brian, UK

It's a pity a few crazies in the 1980s ruined the scene for all with the high profile cases of the book showing a young girl in bed with two homosexual men, giving Thatcher the reason for Clause 28.
In an ideal world parents would give their children sex education but it falls back on the poor old teachers who are between a rock and a hard place. Be fair and totally objective and the moralisers attack them, push a traditionalist "family and marriage" line and the progressives pan them. I personally feel that it is not for the State to enforce religious values.
Steve Foley, England

How are children whose parents are, for whatever reason, unmarried going to be treated?

Shaun Hollingworth, UK
The promotion of marriage above other lifestyles, in exchange for the abolition of "section 28" seems merely to be exchanging one law which encourages bigotry for yet another one. How are children whose parents are, for whatever reason, unmarried going to be treated? Are they to be considered by their peers to be second class citizens simply because their parents are unmarried or single? Will they have fun poked at them because of it?
Shaun Hollingworth, UK

Children need to be taught about all aspects of sex/sexuality and relationships. We are no longer in a society where we can hide information from kids. There is so much coverage of sex in the Media, On the Internet, Everywhere. We need to be honest and upfront with kids and discuss all aspects of it and try and get rid of the opinion that sex and sexuality are dirty. Just tell the kids, they will make up there own minds about what is right and wrong but let's make sure they do it safely. To sum up: there going to do it anyway, let's make sure they do it safely.
Mr X, England

I am very wary of this or any government using sex education in schools as a means to promote a specific moral agenda.
Having said that, I think schools should play an important role in providing young people with balanced and unbiased information about sex, sexuality, sexual health and relationships in a way that allows them to make informed decisions about their lives no matter what their sexuality might be.
Gavin Brown, London, England

I doubt anybody needs to give any specific sex education to children.

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
I doubt anybody needs to give any specific sex education to children. Without any education and only limited access to literature I and my likes had it pretty well figured out at age of 12 and that was over 40 years ago.
Now in any civilised country there is full access for sex information without any specific teaching. I almost died of laughter when my father started very shyly enquire if I knew about the bees and flowers when I was 19.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

Sex education is not just a problem for parents or schools, but for society as a whole. A more open approach to sexuality should be adopted, treating it as a key part of growing up and well being.
In many countries where sexuality is more socially open such problems as teenage pregnancies have been drastically reduced.
Chris, Germany

In Pakistani society talking about sex is considered as amoral and vulgar.

Izhar Soomro, Pakistan
I belong to an underdeveloped, backward and a very conservative society, where sex is one of the biggest secrets, a taboo, topic not to be touched or discussed in open, forget about the education. In the west it is really not a big deal to open this discussion in the schools, but in Pakistani society talking about sex is considered as amoral and vulgar, and if any daring person risk to take initiative on the subject, he is discouraged and negatively labelled not only by the un-educated but also educated and otherwise liberal people. Therefore it is really a need of the hour to shake loose of this so called taboo in Pakistani society.
Izhar Soomro, Pakistan

There is already enough sex education - just little about relationships and sexuality. It is nice to see new perspectives, but preaching just won't work.
Paul Leake, UK

Since we keep on learning our whole lives from everybody around us I think it doesn't hurt if the child is taught about everything from everyone including family, friends, and schools.
Zbigniew, Poland

It seems pretty ludicrous to me that somehow children and young adults will somehow 'respect' marriage because their teacher says it's a good thing - because the government's told them to say that. When I was young teenagers had a tendency to rebel against teachers' opinions - and those of their parents. People learn by observing the world around them and I imagine that most teenagers with half a brain perceive that marriages that work are great but there is a lot unhappiness caused by ones that don't.
Geraldine, England

Children should be taught the scientific facts concerning sex (which most of them already know anyway) and nothing more. The minute the authorities start passing moral judgement, one way or the other, openly or by suggestion, they become ideologues. Communism, Fascism and the Spanish Inquisition should have taught us all about the risks of that!
Alex Chiang, Australia

Teachers should be helping young people discover how to use their minds to think for themselves.

Simon Bayliss, England
Teachers should be helping young people discover how to use their minds to think for themselves, and not shovelling government propaganda down their throats. Given the rebellious nature of teenagers, this top down approach is likely to fail and seems more addressed to the needs of Daily Mail readers rather than children.
Simon Bayliss, England

With two children of 9 and 10 respectively - both of whom are currently at the stage where sex is something to giggle about and the opposite sex are "Yuk!" This is something I am increasingly concerned about.
In my day we were taught the mechanics of reproduction, and nothing more; it was up to our parents to ensure our emotional, moral and opinion on the sexual tendencies of others were addressed. I would welcome a view of the real world in school, not to condemn or encourage gay relationships - just acknowledge it happens.
Teachers simply don't have the time to explain all the intricacies of human behaviour - nor should they attempt to. They should be promoting sex as a loving act between two committed people - don't devalue a loving relationship just because it isn't supported with a certificate!
Carol, UK

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19 Jan 00 | Scotland
Section 28: A parent's view
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